Martin McGuinness meets the Queen

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Northern Irish Depute First Minister, Martin McGuinness met the Queen today

Scottish news: Martin McGuinness meets the Queen

by Karla Healion

Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the Queen met and shook hands this morning.

Following a private meeting in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, the Queen, wearing green, smiled as McGuinness warmly said goodbye to her in the Irish language.

The handshake is being heralded as a symbolic gesture to the next phase of the Anglo-Irish relationship.

It is the first time a senior figure from Sinn Féin, the Irish republican party that opposes British rule in Northern Ireland, has shaken hands with a British monarch.

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The Queen’s visit to Ireland last year is thought to have marked a new understanding between the two states and was noted as a positive, as well as peaceful, event.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the handshake was about "moving beyond rhetoric to reach out" to Unionists as a "gesture of respect".

Adams told the BBC, "It is a very significant step and I think it may bring us into a different phase, into a new platform which can be built upon".

The cross-border event this morning was organised by a charity, Co-Operation Ireland, which works to bring communities together and was also attended by Irish president Michael D. Higgins and Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson.

In contrast to the cheering crowds surrounding the Queen’s visit to Enniskillen yesterday there was a one mile exclusion zone surrounding this morning’s meeting. No people or cars were present as the monarch made her way to the meeting in a bullet-proof car.

This morning’s private meeting will be followed by a public meeting later today at Stormont.

Last night some protests took place in Belfast where petrol bombs were thrown in protest to the Queen’s visit.

The Queen is the head of Britain's armed forces, seen by Republicans as occupying troops in Northern Ireland and responsible for many deaths over the 800 years of war between the peoples.

McGuinness was a high ranking member of the IRA when the military group killed the Queen's cousin, Lord Mountbatten, in 1979.

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published this page in News 2012-06-27 14:10:00 +0100