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Comment 28 JUNE 2012

Queen's meeting with Martin McGuinness was 'wonderful', says countess injured by IRA bomb

28 JUNE 2012

Earl Mountbatten's daughter, who lost most of her family in an IRA attack, said the Queen had her full support for meeting Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander who is now Deputy First Minister.

 
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "I'm hugely grateful that we have come to a point where we can behave responsibly and positively."

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Countess Mountbatten (above, in dark blue)  mourned the loss of her 14-year-old son Nicholas Knatchbull and her father and mother-in-law after they were killed in 1979.

The 88-year-old survived the bomb which was placed on a fishing boat on which the family were enjoying a day out, as did her husband John Knatchbull and her son's twin brother Timothy.

As he recovered from his injuries, the youngster was invited by the monarch to spend a holiday at Balmoral while his parents continued their own recuperation.

He has spoken in the past of the sovereign's "unstoppable mothering mode" as she cared for him and his older sister Amanda.

The Queen exuded "genuine warmth", according to those present, when she shook hands not once but twice with Mr McGuiness during her historic trip to Northern Ireland.

For his part, the politician appeared genuinely pleased to meet the monarch, welcoming her with the traditional Gaelic greeting of céad míle fáilte – which means a hundred thousand welcomes.

He also bid her farewell with another Gaelic phrase – slán agus beannacht – which he translated for her as "goodbye and godspeed".

Also significant was the fact the Duke of Edinburgh, nephew of Earl Mountbatten, also shook hands with the Sinn Fein MP.


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Mr McGuiness described the meeting as "very nice".

He told the Queen during a private meeting at the Lyric Theatre that it was the monarch's words of conciliation during her visit to Dublin last year that paved the way for the meeting.

"He talked about the Queen's speech in Dublin Castle, when she said we had to remember all the victims of the conflict, and said he agreed with that," said a Sinn Fein spokesman.

"He said people had suffered on all sides, and the Queen agreed with him. He also told her their meeting was a powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership."

A witness to their meeting – Peter Sheridan, of charity Cooperation Ireland, which fosters cross-community relations – described it as "very relaxed".

"The handshake was almost as natural as what the rest of us do in society when we meet someone or say goodbye," he added.

"But it is certainly a seminal event between people on this island and between these islands."  

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