During the years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness was a senior member of the IRA. Today he is a member of the Sinn Fein party, which is pro-republican and a Northern Ireland deputy first minister. During the violent times, the group blew up Lord Louis Mountbatten’s yacht. Mountbatten was the Queen’s cousin and the bombing killed him and three other people while they were vacationing off the Northern Ireland coast in 1979.
A handshake today between McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth was once considered unthinkable and took place away from the view of the media, with the exception of one camera. Present at a charity arts event where the handshake took place was Michael Higgins the Irish President, Peter Robinson the First Minister of Northern Ireland and Prince Phillip the queen’s husband.
The greeting, which seemed mundane, was heralded as a big turning point. The event’s host, Peter Sheridan told reporters that it was a huge reconciliation and it cannot be underestimated.
The queen, in a green coat with matching hat, toured the art exhibit, the cultural charity work that is aimed at enhancing cross-community relations between Protestants and Catholics. When she left the Theatre, she shook McGuinness’ hand again, this time in full view of the public while he was in line with other dignitaries.
After the event, McGuiness spoke to reporters and said he had spoken Gaelic to the queen telling her that what he spoke meant Goodbye and Godspeed. The reconciliation was judged to have cost both individuals a price. Some republicans who are hard line view McGuiness like a traitor, but most say it was a move forward.