Handshake Takes place Amid Ongoing Tension
Provisional Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness met and shook hands with British monarch
Elizabeth Windsor today, both in private and in the presence of an
official photographer. The unprecented event has provoked protest and
division among Irish nationalists and republicans.
The initial handshake took place in a room within Belfast's Lyric
theatre behind closed doors, and little is known of what took place. A
second encounter, as the British monarch was leaving the theatre, was
recorded by photographers and released to the media.
Windsor is the head of Britain's armed forces, the occupying troops in
the North of Ireland. McGuinness served for many years as a commander
within the Provisional IRA, but is now the Deputy First Minister in the
local power-sharing administration in the north of Ireland.
In a quiet space used by the theater for creative learning, the two met
privately and were joined by Windsor's husband, Philip
Sonderburg-Glucksburg ('Prince Philip' or 'the Duke of Edinburgh') the
North's First Minister Peter Robinson, President Michael D Higgins and
his wife Sabina.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said that in that meeting, Mr McGuinness
"emphasised the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the
conflict and their families." He said Mr McGuinness told Windsor that
their meeting was a "powerful signal that peace-building requires
The meeting was seen as a provocative act by some republican groups and
heavy rioting broke out in west Belfast last night. The PSNI said nine
of its members were injured as petrol bombs were thrown near the Falls
The violence followed clashes on Black mountain yesterday as loyalists
attacked nationalist protestors and pulled apart a giant sign erected in
opposition to the queen's visit. There were reports of continuing
disturbances at the same location today.
Twenty thousand loyalists are currently gathering in the grounds of
Stormont parliament buildings for a 'party' to mark the royal visit and
the 60th anniversary of Windsor's coronation.
Photographs of the encounter have been published in the major
international media this afternoon, and most have hailed the event as a
sign of peace in Ireland.