Martin McGuinness meets Queen Elizabeth at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast last night. Simon Graham/Harrisons 07771608310
A very pleasant woman

'A very nice meeting' - Martin McGuinness had a private audience with the Queen last night

And it all went swimmingly…

NORTHERN IRELAND’S DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has described his historic private meeting with Queen Elizabeth as “very nice”.

The Sinn Féin MLA had a 15-minute meeting with the monarch at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast last night as she began a three-day visit to the North.

It was the Queen’s third encounter with McGuinness since the historic handshake between the pair in the summer of 2012 but the first on an individual basis.

“It was a very nice meeting, it was another opportunity as deputy first minister to show positive leadership. I went to the meeting as an Irish Republican, I came away as a very proud Irish Republican,” McGuinness told Ryan Tubridy on 2fm this morning.

He described the Queen as “a huge supporter” of the peace process and added: “I think we’re always conscious that she is the head of the British state, but she is also a very pleasant woman.”

Royal visit to Ulster - Day 1 Simon Graham / Harrisons 07771608310 Simon Graham / Harrisons 07771608310 / Harrisons 07771608310

McGuinness said that he raised with the Queen her historic State visit to Ireland in 2011 and her speech at Dublin Castle. He added:

“She has many reasons not to meet with me. I also have many reasons not to meet with her. But I think we both recognise that we have to rise above these things and we have to try and move forward, free of recriminations from the past.”

McGuinness is accompanying the Queen and Prince Philip on a tour of the old Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast later today. He spent time in that prison during the Troubles.

On the peace process in general, McGuinness said that politicians need to “find a way forward” on issues such as flags, parades and the past and said that the “evils” of sectarianism have to confronted.

McGuinness also said that he is not against a Royal presence at the 1916 commemorations, but said that it has to be done with “agreement” from the key people involved.

He also described the Sinn Féin result in last month’s local and European elections as “stunning”.

Read: So Martin McGuinness just got this World Cup pick in the office pool

Take Two: The Queen and Martin McGuinness shake hands at Windsor

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