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Saturday 23 September 2017

Queen begins two day Northern Ireland visit that will include Martin McGuinness handshake

Queen Elizabeth at Ascot Racecourse this week. Photo: PA
Queen Elizabeth at Ascot Racecourse this week. Photo: PA

Tony Jones, Steven McCaffery and Michael McHugh

THE Queen arrived in Enniskillen today for a two-day tour celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and the diversity of Northern Ireland's people.

Her six decades on the throne were marked by a cathedral service of thanksgiving in the town which was the scene of a devastating IRA bomb attack in November 1987.

A few minutes walk from St Macartin's Cathedral is the local cenotaph that has become a memorial commemorating the 11 people killed in the blast which happened during a Remembrance Day service.

The Queen will meet relatives of some of the victims after the service.

As well as celebrating her 60-year milestone with the communities of Northern Ireland, her visit will also be marked by a historic handshake with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

The greeting between the Stormont Deputy First Minister - a former IRA commander - and the Queen in Belfast tomorrow is a gesture which will herald another milestone in Anglo-Irish relations.

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour of the UK has seen her travel from Nottingham and Leicester to London and Henley-on-Thames in celebration of her reign.

She flew to Northern Ireland in 1977 to mark her Silver Jubilee and her Golden milestone in 2002.

Today's arrival was delayed by almost an hour after bad weather forced the Royal Flight to divert from Enniskillen to Aldergrove Airport, near Belfast.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Enniskillen to greet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as they made their way to the cathedral in a chauffeur-driven car.

A trumpet fanfare marked their arrival in the 17th century cathedral through its west door, where they were welcomed by the Dean of Clogher, the Very Reverend Kenneth Hall.

In a sign of inclusiveness, senior clerics from other denominations took part in the ecumenical service including significantly the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.

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