Belfast: In a move that signaled at the attempts to unload the burden of a troubled past, Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday shook hands with former IRA chief Martin McGuinness for the first time ever.
The handshake that is being termed as a historic episode in the history of Northern Ireland and Britain, comes fourteen years after a conflict that claimed the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
Martin McGuiness, who is now the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, was once the commander of Irish Republican Army, who was behind the assassination of Lord Loius Mountbatten, Queen’s cousin.
Lord Loius Mountbatten was killed in 1979, when a bomb planted by IRA blew off his boat.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are on a two day trip to Ireland.
The Queen met with Martin McGuinness at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. Also present there were Northern Ireland`s Unionist first minister Peter Robinson and Irish President Michael D. Higgins.
The Queen was donning a green-coloured outfit, signaling Ireland’s national colour.
Hours later, the queen was seen waved to crowds from an open-topped car at a celebration of her Diamond Jubilee that was attended by over 20,000 people.
The Queen has been visiting the Unionist politicians, and the Protestants regularly but not Sinn Fein.
While the Protestants are in favour of a Northern Ireland that stays inside the UK, Sinn Fein - the largest party representing Catholic nationalists, want a united Ireland.
So far, Sinn Fein leaders have been boycotting the Royal visits to Ireland but it seems that IRA is readying itself to leave the past behind and face a new future.
Though, some within IRA are still against the Queen’s meeting with McGuinness. There were scattered clashes between the police and protesters outside the cordoned off theatre where the meeting took place.
Experts say that the handshake was an “ultimate” event and could go a long way in building the peace process but it was just one step towards the long road of reconciliation that may take years to come to a peaceful conclusion.
Sinn Fein’s suddenly changed demeanour is coming from the fact thatit has gained much popularity south of the Irish border as the main party opposing an EU/IMF bailout.
Now it has its eyes stuck on the image of a mainstream party, moved on from its troubled past which could turn off the southern voters.