By Peter Muhly | AFP –
Queen Elizabeth II shook hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness on Wednesday in a highly symbolic moment in the Northern Ireland peace process.
The initial handshake between the queen and McGuinness, who is now deputy first minister of the British province, took place behind closed doors in a Belfast theatre.
The two then shook hands a second time for the cameras as the queen left the building.
McGuinness held the monarch’s hand for a few moments and she smiled as he spoke to her in Irish, telling her the words meant: “Goodbye and God speed.”
When asked about the meeting later, McGuinness told reporters it had been “very nice”, without elaborating.
The event is seen as an important milestone in Anglo-Irish relations after three decades of sectarian violence, known as “The Troubles”, which largely ended with the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said the handshake had “taken relations between the two countries to a new level”.
It comes on the second day of the queen’s visit to the province, which on Tuesday took her to Enniskillen, the scene of a notorious 1987 Irish Republican Army bombing which killed 11 people.
McGuinness was a senior commander in the IRA when the paramilitary group killed the queen’s cousin Louis Mountbatten in 1979 by bombing his boat while he was on holiday in County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland.
His Sinn Fein party, the political wing of the now-defunct IRA, continues to reject British
Category: World News