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Queen to meet McGuinness in Belfast – but still no decision on handshake photo

Martin McGuinness will meet the Queen at a charity event in Belfast – but there’s still no confirmation on whether a photographer will capture it.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen yesterday. Her two-day visit to Northern Ireland concludes today.
Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit to the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen yesterday. Her two-day visit to Northern Ireland concludes today.

SINN FÉIN’S Deputy First Minister will today shake hands with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, in a historic milestone in the Northern Irish peace process.

The pair will meet at a charity lunch in Belfast, coinciding with the Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour around the UK.

The event does not form part of the jubilee celebrations, but is instead being hosted by a cross-community reconciliation charity Co-Operation Ireland, of which both the Queen and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, are co-patrons.

McGuinness and President Higgins will attend the event, at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, as will the First Minister Peter Robinson – setting the stage for McGuinness, the de facto leader of Republicanism in Northern Ireland, to meet the Queen for the first time.

While the encounter will not be held behind closed doors, it is still not known whether a photograph of their introductory handshake will be released.

A spokesperson for the UK government’s Northern Ireland Office told TheJournal.ie yesterday that they expected the lunch not to be “a media event”, meaning media would not be admitted, though it had not been decided whether a pool photographer would be given access.

McGuinness has said he has no difficulty with a photographer being present to capture the handshake, which McGuinness said would be “another bit of history” in the peace process – meaning a single press photographer may be permitted to attend briefly.

Sinn Féin’s president Gerry Adams has described the planned meeting as a “major challenge for Republicans”, though McGuinness himself has acknowledged that many British people had suffered as a result of the decades-long conflict in the North.

Read: Queen Elizabeth arrives in Northern Ireland for two-day Jubilee visit

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Gavan Reilly

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