History was made today in Northern Ireland as the Queen shook hands with Martin McGuinness. Unthinkable. Unimaginable. Unbelievable.
Truly a picture to paint an infinity of words and help heal decades, nay centuries of conflict and division:
Today’s Belfast Telegraph editorial, which says the handshake “boosts the cause of peace”, is particularly poignant:
“Geraldine Ferguson believes the handshake is a signal of commitment to the cause of peace, a cause that her 21-year-old son, [Sapper Patrick Azimkar], died for.
“She hopes, as do we all, that Northern Ireland is firmly set on the road to a lasting and just peace. For she, like us, knows only too well the unacceptable human cost of hatred and division.
“But she also recognises that the death of her son along with another young soldier was widely condemned by all sections of the community here and there was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy for the bereaved families.
“Healing the wounds of the past is a slow process, but Her Majesty has played an important part in it.”
With the Irish Times tonight adding:
The pair first shook hands away from the media spotlight behind closed doors. They met in a room within Belfast’s Lyric theatre during an event celebrating the arts in the Republic and Northern Ireland. But 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 said “slán agus beannacht”, telling the queen it meant “goodbye and Godspeed”.
It is understood that during the VIPs’ initial private meeting, Mr McGuinness welcomed both the queen and President Higgins in Irish. Mr McGuinness is said to have commented briefly on the queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the conflict. A Sinn Féin spokesman said: “He emphasised the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the conflict and their families.”
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 time ahead.
Sinn Féin said Mr McGuinness told the queen that their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”. He also praised the role of the President in today’s encounter, and welcomed that the engagement took place at an event celebrating culture across Ireland.
• Official: Martin McGuinness will meet the Queen 22 Jun 2012
• The Queen in Dublin: An eyewitness account of history 18 May 2011
Wednesday, June 27th 2012, the day the Queen and Martin McGuinness shook hands.
Handshakes don’t get more historic than this.