Friday, June 29, 2012

Queen Elizabeth Shakes Hands With Martin McGuinness, Former IRA Terrorist Whose Group Murdered Her Cousin Lord Mountbatten

I guess time heals all wounds, but it must have been rough.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Queen Elizabeth, ex-IRA leader share historic handshake":

LONDON -- In a meeting symbolizing the end of years of enmity between British rule and Northern Ireland republicans, Queen Elizabeth shook hands Wednesday with a former Irish Republican Army commander.

Martin McGuinness, now a deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and a member of the pro-republican Sinn Fein party, was a senior IRA member in the years of sectarian violence. During that time, the group was responsible for blowing up the yacht of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the queen's cousin, killing him and three others while they vacationed off the coast of Northern Ireland in 1979.

The once unthinkable handshake took place away from media eyes -- apart from one camera crew -- behind closed doors at a charity arts event in Belfast, witnessed by the queen’s husband, Prince Philip, and leading politicians including Irish President Michael Higgins and Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson.

The seemingly mundane greeting was widely heralded as a turning point. Peter Sheridan, host of the event, told reporters, "It's a huge act of reconciliation, you cannot underestimate how important this is."

The queen, wearing a pale green coat and hat, also toured a local art exhibit, the work of a cultural charity aimed at fostering cross-community relations between Catholics and Protestants. As she left the Lyric Theatre, the carefully chosen apolitical context where the event took place, the queen smiled as she shook hands again with McGuinness, this time publicly as he was standing in line with other officials.

Afterward, McGuinness told reporters he spoke to the queen in Gaelic telling her his words meant “Goodbye and God speed.”

The show of reconciliation was generally judged to have cost both leaders a price. Some hard-line republicans view McGuinness as a traitor, but most agreed that it was a step forward.

"From the queen's point of view, she lost a member of the family, so it's a big step for her," Joe McGowan, a Northern Ireland historian, told Sky News. "Martin McGuinness is conceding something. He has to recognize that the struggle over the past 30 years was lost, in a military sense anyway."
ADDED: At the Belfast Telegraph, "Queen handshake with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness bridges centuries-old gulf."