Sunday 23 July 2017

Historic moment Martin McGuinness and the Queen shook hands

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2012 Picture: Pacemaker
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2012 Picture: Pacemaker
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The handshake lasted mere seconds, but it was a moment of historic significance when Martin McGuinness and the Queen first shook hands.

Such a gesture between the former IRA commander and Her Majesty would once have been unimaginable.

However, at a charity event in Belfast on a Wednesday morning in June 2012 the hand of friendship was extended.

"I feel so privileged to have witnessed that significant and historic moment," said former PA photographer Paul Faith.

Martin McGuinness addressing Nationalists outside the Guildhall in Derry after a march. Photo: Brian Little/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness addressing Nationalists outside the Guildhall in Derry after a march. Photo: Brian Little/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness speaking at an election press conference in Belfast. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) meeting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (right) and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness in 10 Downing Street. Photo: Richard Pohle/PA Wire
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and First Minister Peter Robinson (right) greeting US President George Bush at Stormont Castle in Belfast. Photo: Stephen Wilson/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein standing beside a sentry box outside Hillsborough Castle before a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, arriving at Stormont. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness smiling after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (right) and Martin McGuinness carrying the coffin of former senior IRA commander Brian Keenan in west Belfast. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness leaving 10 Downing St after a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and his deputy Martin McGuinness (left) with party aides outside No10 Downing Street before meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair for peace talks. Photo: Adam Butler/PA Wire
Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness with party colleagues during a press conference at Stormont. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness speaking to the media after a meeting with Government officials at Castle Buildings, Stormont. Photo: PA Wire
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein standing beside a table where his votes are being counted after the Northern Ireland Assembly election in Ballymena, Co Antrim. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness, leading Sinn Fein negotiator in the peace process, attending a news conference in the House of Commons. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Former US President Bill Clinton with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the University of Ulster Magee campus in Derry. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in 1996. Photo: David Giles/PA Wire
Former US President Bill Clinton (right)arriving at University of Ulster Magee Campus in Derry to meet First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (centre). Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness walking past a Bloody Sunday mural in the Bogside in Co Derry. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness looking at a smashed window at the City Church in the University area of Belfast. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness (left) and Gerry Adams addressing the media after their meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in 1995 addressing a Republican rally in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone. Photo: PA Wire
Martin McGuinness outside the Guildhall in Co Derry after giving evidence to the Saville Inquiry, into the Bloody Sunday tribunal. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness at the announcement of the first preference votes in the Irish Presidential Election at the count centre at Dublin castle. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Faith was the only photographer allowed access to photograph the handshake.

"I remember that Martin appeared very relaxed and confident and happy to stand beside the Queen.

"The significance of it for me didn't really sink in until the next day when I saw the pictures in the papers.

"Every front page was carrying the photograph and it hit me that this was going to be a historic image," said Mr Faith.

He added: "The day after the handshake I was sitting in the press room at the Irish Open and Martin McGuinness came in with Peter Robinson.

"He came over to me and shook my hand and said 'you've made me famous again'. He then asked for a photograph of him and I shaking hands.

"I also took the photograph of him and Ian Paisley that led to them being called the Chuckle Brothers.

"He later signed that photograph for me and said 'so Paul, you're the one who turned me into a Chuckle Brother. Well done'."

The day after shaking hands with the Queen, Mr McGuinness spoke about its "momentous and historical" significance.

He said that the meeting had the potential to define "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".

In a speech in Westminster he said the handshake "was in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity".

"It is an offer I hope many will accept in the same spirit it was offered," he said.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the handshake as "the most remarkable sign of change yet" in the Northern Ireland peace process.

A few years later Mr McGuinness paid tribute to the Queen for meeting him.

"I liked her courage in agreeing to meet with me, I liked the engagements that I've had with her. There's nothing I have seen in my engagements with her that this is someone I should dislike - I like her," he told a BBC documentary.

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