BELFAST, United Kingdom – History. On Wednesday a leader of Sinn Fein, Martin McGuinness, in Belfast shook the hand of Queen Elizabeth II, a symbolic gesture reveals the progress made to consolidate peace in Northern Ireland.
The Queen and Martin McGuinness, a former leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), met privately in a theater in Belfast on the sidelines of an event bringing together many of the musicians, poets and artists of the most prominent Northern Ireland. The husband of the Queen, Prince Philip, and Michael Higgins Irish President and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson were also present.
The media could not see their first handshake, but the Queen and Mr. McGuinness reiterated this symbolic gesture half an hour later before a television camera and two photographers. Such a gesture would have been unthinkable just a few years.
The authorities have allowed the live broadcast of any image, or any sound, because the very sensitive nature of this event.
The queen and her husband were on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland, Tuesday and Wednesday, as part of a tour in the UK to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Elizabeth II.
The leaders of Sinn Fein had refused to meet Elizabeth II last year in his first state visit to Ireland, saying it was too soon after the end of decades of deadly conflict.
This time, Sinn Fein has given the green light to such a meeting, despite opposition from some Irish republicans, who want to end British rule in Northern Ireland.