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Queen Shakes Hands With McGuinness In Belfast
The Queen has publicly shaken hands with a former senior commander of the IRA in a historic moment in Belfast.
The monarch met Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, now Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, on what could best be described as neutral territory, in a momentous step forward for Anglo-Irish relations.
The historic encounter, at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, was organised by Co-operation Ireland, a cross border group, and was also attended by Irish President Michael D Higgins.
The initial handshake between the pair was conducted in private, away from the media spotlight, but farewells were filmed and photographed so the meeting was recorded for posterity.
They met in a room within the theatre during a cultural event celebrating the arts in the republic and Northern Ireland and were shown paintings of prominent Irish figures.
The pair were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson, Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina.
Mr McGuinness is said to have spoken to the Queen of the significance of her visit, and of the need for it to be built upon in the years to come.
He commended her visit to Dublin and in particular her speech, in which she extended her deepest sympathy to all the victims of Anglo-Irish troubles.
He said their meeting was a "powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership".
Later, as the Queen left to continue her Diamond Jubilee tour of Northern Ireland, the pair shook hands again, this time in public.
As they shook hands for a second time, Mr McGuinness wished the Queen well in Irish and told her that the phrase meant: "Goodbye and God's speed."
Asked as he was leaving how his meeting with the Queen had gone, Mr McGuinness said "it went really well", adding: "I'm still a republican."
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said afterwards: "This will move Northern Ireland on to a whole new plane. After all the trauma of Northern Ireland, everyone is looking forward.
"It is about a shared future, not a shared-out future."
He said it was absolutely appropriate that when the Queen visits parts of the UK, she meets local politicians, democratically elected, pursuing their democratic political goals by peaceful means.
Mr Paterson added that it built on the success of the monarch's visit to the Republic of Ireland last year.
"None of this could have happened a few years ago so it is all looking to the future," he said.
Former prime minister Tony Blair, who oversaw the Good Friday Agreement, also welcomed the Queen's handshake with Mr McGuinness.
"I think it is fantastic that we have come so far," said Mr Blair.
"The Queen's is a magnificent gesture and thoroughly typical because it must be very difficult for her - it is a sign of how much has changed," he told the Evening Standard.
The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, has met many people who once fought against British rule but the encounter was especially poignant because of the IRA's assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979.
Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India and an uncle of Prince Philip, was killed when his boat was blown up in Mullaghmore, in the Irish Republic.
Three other passengers died, including his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas and a 15-year-old local boy, Paul Maxwell, who was helping on the boat.
Rodney Lomax, who was responsible for maintaining the 27ft boat Shadow V and had been asked along to fix a problem, should have been on board as well.
Mr Lomax declined because he was going on holiday and was on shore when he heard the explosion.
"It was awful for everybody, because nobody here would have anything to do with a thing like that," he said.
He told Sky News he welcomed the handshake as a moment of reconciliation. "I'm not in the IRA and never was, but I'm republican-minded and I think it's great," he said.
Local historian Joe McGowan was also in Mullaghmore when the blast happened. He said the monarch and the former IRA commander have "stepped up to the plate" to achieve reconciliation.
"From the Queen's point of view she lost a member of the family, so it's a big step for her. Martin McGuinness is conceding something. He has to recognise that the struggle over the past 30 years was lost, in a military sense anyway," he said.
The man who planted the bomb, Thomas McMahon, was jailed for life, but like other prisoners was freed in 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement which ended the IRA's military campaign.
Now living in County Monaghan, he declined to talk to Sky News about the bombing or the Queen's visit.
Later, the Queen arrived at Stormont to attend a huge party in honour of her Diamond Jubilee.
Thousands of well-wishers gathered in the grounds of the parliament buildings, home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, to celebrate the monarch's 60-year reign.