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

The Queen and Prince Philip will visit Enniskillen today and Belfast tomorrow, when she will meet Martin McGuinness.

Queen Elizabeth meets First Minister Peter Robinson at Hillsborough Castle during her last trip to Northern Ireland in 2010.
Queen Elizabeth meets First Minister Peter Robinson at Hillsborough Castle during her last trip to Northern Ireland in 2010.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive

QUEEN ELIZABETH today arrives in Northern Ireland to begin a two-day tour to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen and Prince Philip will spend today attending engagements in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, with events Belfast tomorrow.

The Irish News said today’s events would attend a service at St Macartan’s Church of Ireland cathedral in Enniskillen, after which they would cross the street to a Catholic church, St Michael’s, to meet schoolchildren and a community group.

This would mark the first time in recent history that a British monarch will have visited a Catholic church; Prince Charles made a similar gesture, visiting a Catholic Church in Belfast, during a trip there in early 2011.

Among the events in Belfast will be a party on the grounds of Stormont Estate, and a lunch organised by Co-Operation Ireland, a cross-community reconciliation charity of which both the British and Irish heads of state are co-patrons.

It is in this context – as a charity event and not strictly a jubilee commemoration – that the Queen will meet Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, tomorrow.

It is now thought likely that a photograph of the pair’s historic handshake will be released, despite initial indications that there would be no documented record of their encounter at which media will not be present.

President Higgins, as the other co-patron, will also be present at the event, as will Peter Robinson in his capacity as First Minister.

‘Bit of history’

In an interview with the BBC, McGuinness acknowledged the handshake would be “another bit of history” and recognised that although many Irish people had suffered under British rule, British forces deployed to the North had also suffered.

“It’s also recognising that others have lost too – the British soldiers who were sent here by politicians have also lost their lives, members of the RUC, the UDR, the Queen herself lost someone who was a member of her family,” McGuinness said.

The latter remark was a reference to Lord Mountbatten, the former governor-general of India and the uncle of Prince Philip, who was killed by the IRA while on a fishing trip in Sligo in 1979.

In remarks published to the Irish News, McGuinness said he had “met far more dangerous people” than the Queen, though he told the Irish Times that he was unlikely to refer to the Queen by the salutation ‘Your Majesty’.

“These are not the sort of terms I use when I speak to people,” he said, adding that the person he recognised as Head of State was President Higgins.

In full: Gerry Adams statement on decision for McGuinness to meet Queen

Video: How London looked from a Spitfire plane during Queen celebrations

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Gavan Reilly

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