Updated: 28/06/12 : 07:46:52Printable Version
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has met and shaken hands with Sinn Féin Martin McGuinness.
The much-anticipated handshake took place away from the media spotlight behind closed doors.
They met in a room within Belfast’s Lyric theatre during an event celebrating the arts north and south.
The historic encounter between the former IRA commander – now the North’s Deputy First Minister – and the Queen was unthinkable a little over 10 years ago.
But the success of the peace process and the Queen’s acclaimed visit to Ireland last year, when her conciliatory words and gestures won over many critics of the monarchy, paved the way for their meeting.
Mr McGuinness was a senior member of the IRA when it killed the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten in a bomb blast in 1979.
The Queen is the head of Britain’s armed forces, seen in the past by Republicans as occupying troops in the North.
In a quiet space used by the Lyric for creative learning, the two met and were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the North's First Minister Peter Robinson, President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
The historic meeting has been recorded for posterity, despite taking place behind closed doors at the theatre's McGrath suite.
The initial handshake will remain private but the farewells - when another handshake is expected - will be filmed and photographed.