Queen and Martin McGuinness shake hands

The meeting between the monarch and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister took place at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast on Wednesday.

The meeting  happened at an event organised by a charity, Co-Operation Ireland, which works to bring communities together, the BBC informs. They shook hands at a private meeting and later shook hands in public. The private meeting, in a room at the theatre, involved a group of seven people, including Irish President Michael D Higgins and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson.It is understood McGuinness welcomed both the Queen and the Irish president in Irish. The deputy first minister is said to have commented on the Queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the Troubles.A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “He emphasised the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the conflict and their families.” Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”.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 wished the Queen well in Irish, which translates: “Goodbye and God bless.”The main event had been billed as one to celebrate the role of the arts in contributing to reconciliation and peace-building and not as part of the Jubilee celebrations. During the event, the Queen was presented with a gift of Belleek pottery to mark her Diamond Jubilee. President Higgins said he and his wife, Sabina, had been delighted “to have the opportunity for a brief but very warm meeting” with the Queen. He said it marked “another important step on the journey to reconciliation on this island”.The prime minister’s official spokesman said the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland last year had “taken relations between the two countries to a new level”. The spokesperson added: “We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community.”Those present at the Lyric event included the pianist Barry Douglas, poet Michael Longley and actors Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill.  The Queen and Prince Philip later toured Titanic Belfast, a new visitors’ centre located near where the ship was built. She has also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit. She enjoyed a lunch which included traditional Irish soda bread, Comber potatoes, the sweet toffee yellow man, and icecream. Northern Ireland’s first minister said thousands were waiting for the Queen at Stormont.“I am certain, you will receive a massive, unparalleled and enthusiastic expression of affection and fidelity,” he told the Queen. “I know for many in the media, the focus has been on a handshake and a photograph, but for most people in Northern Ireland it is not about one moment of history but the opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for 60 very full years of Your Majesty’s service to this nation.” About 20,000 people are expected to attend the event at Stormont later.

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