HISTORY IN THE SHAKING: Queen extends hand to McGuinness

a HISTORIC handshake between the Queen and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness was last night being hailed as a watershed moment for Anglo-Irish relations.

The Queen and the former IRA commander who is now Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister first shook hands away from the media spotlight behind closed doors at a cultural event in Belfast’s Lyric theatre.

But as the Queen left the venue they shook hands again, this time in public, as Mr McGuinness offered parting words in Irish and told her the phrase meant: “Goodbye and God’s speed.”

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During their initial private meeting the Deputy First Minister is said to have commented briefly on the Queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular the comments she made at the time recognising all the victims of the conflict when her conciliatory words and gestures won over many critics of the monarchy .

Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”.

As he left the venue, Mr McGuinness, who has been accused by hardline critics of compromising his beliefs by meeting the monarch, told reporters: “I am still a republican.” Asked what it was like to meet the Queen, he added: “Very nice.”

The Queen ended her visit to Northern Ireland by appearing at a party held in the Stormont estate attended by 20,000 people.

Huge crowds for tour: Page 8; Comment: Page 12.