News In Depth
Handshakes helped advance process
It used to be the Freemasons who were famous for their handshakes - but that was before the Irish peace process came along.
From the early 1990s the efforts to end the Troubles saw a string of important political encounters - each sealed with a clasp of hands.
Cynics have claimed such acts have been over-hyped, though others argue the simple handshake has played a key role in signifying an end to hostilities.
But the mutual respect implied by the peaceful gesture has often been difficult for some to accept.
When Tony Blair first shook the hand of Gerry Adams in a private meeting in Belfast in 1997, the then prime minister was later met by angry unionists who pelted him with surgical gloves.
He was the first British prime minister to meet Irish republican leaders since 1922 - the era when Ireland was partitioned.
The Blair/Adams encounter took place away from the cameras, in a windowless room in Stormont's Castle Buildings.
But when Mr Blair later went walk-about in a shopping centre in Protestant East Belfast he was greeted with jeers of "you've blood on your hands".
The Labour leader was pushed and jostled by protesters, and had to dodge volleys of rubber gloves, before his security team regrouped and got him out of the building.
Mr Blair, who helped secure the Good Friday peace deal in 1998, said at the time of the handshake: "I treated Gerry Adams and the members of Sinn Fein in the same way that I treat any human being."
But while that meeting took place behind closed doors, an earlier historic handshake was played-out in public - albeit under the pretence that it was a chance encounter.
US president Bill Clinton jumped from his motorcade in Belfast's republican heartland of the Falls Road to pay an apparently impromptu visit to a bakery shop in 1995.
But on the street, he bumped into a bearded local and the pair exchanged greetings.
The handshake between the president and Mr Adams was captured on film and became a defining image of the early peace process. The exact location today features on Belfast bus tours.
But if meetings between top republicans and world leaders eventually became commonplace, the sight of old foes coming together in Belfast retained the ability to astound viewers.
In 2007 there were gasps at the TV footage of Mr Adams and Ian Paisley sitting elbow-to-elbow as they set the seal on a power-sharing deal between their parties.
There was also shock at the subsequent image of Martin McGuinness and the arch-unionist laughing together as they went on to firmly establish their Stormont government.
Later, when Mr Paisley's successor Peter Robinson was rocked by the scandal surrounding an affair between his wife and a teenager, the new unionist figurehead received support from Mr McGuinness.
It emerged that Iris Robinson was suffering mental ill health, and in a private meeting Mr McGuinness offered his backing at what was a time of extreme pressure.
Mr Robinson recounted his decision to exchange a handshake with his former political enemy and said: "He expressed sympathy to me and put out his hand. I thought it would be wrong of me in those circumstances to do anything other than that."
The gesture was the first of its kind between the leaders who had previously clashed in public.
It helped change the mood music, providing a more settled backdrop to subsequent talks on the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.
However, not everyone has welcomed the rise of the handshake.
Ken Maginnis - the outspoken unionist peer, recently criticised for controversial comments on the gay community - once accused Mr Adams of "collecting handshakes like a Comanche collects scalps".
But observers of the peace process suffering similar "history fatigue" are reminded that Northern Ireland remains a divided society, where many can grow-up barely knowing anyone on "the other side", or shaking their hand.