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Martin McGuinness hails historical handshake with Queen Elizabeth
Jun 29, 2012, 12:01 GMT
Martin McGuinness has hailed the 'momentous and historical' handshake he shared with Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday (27.12.11)
The onetime IRA commander, who is now the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, is hopeful his meeting with the monarch can boost relations between Britain and Northern Ireland, saying it had the potential to define 'a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves'.
In a speech in Westminster on Thursday (28.06.12), he said: '[The handshake] was in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity.
'It is an offer I hope many will accept in the same spirit it was offered.'
The private meeting took place in Belfast's Lyric Theatre and involved seven people, including Irish President Michael D Higgins and Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson.
Mr. McGuinness told the queen that their meeting was a 'powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership'.
As they shook hands for a second time before he left, Mr. McGuinness wished the queen well in Irish, with words which translated as: 'Goodbye and God bless.'
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams earlier said the meeting was a 'gesture of respect' and an attempt to move 'beyond rhetoric to reach out' to unionists.
He added: 'There will be many victims of IRA terrorism who will find the encounter difficult, but the peace process is about tackling the difficult issues and making the difficult decisions.'
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