McGuinness handshake with queen 'a sign of peace'
THE North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said that he and Queen Elizabeth had "many reasons" not to meet each other but overcame those differences for the sake of achieving reconciliation.
In a highly symbolic moment, the Sinn Fein politician shook hands with the queen in the Grand Hall of Windsor castle in London.
The Northern Ireland-themed reception, held as part of President Michael D Higgins's state visit, will be seen as one of the most significant parts of the week.
Speaking to reporters, Mr McGuinness said that the British monarch's conduct during her visit to Dublin, particularly in the Garden of Remembrance, had been hugely impressive.
Mr McGuinness said: "The queen's visit to Dublin and how she conducted herself, her words at the memorial and Dublin castle and how she reached out to all victims without differentiating, were all hugely impressive.
"She had many reasons not to meet me, and me her, but I think we've risen above that and seen the contribution that these big acts of reconciliation can have.
"I'm overjoyed for the President. He is my President and I'm delighted he's been accorded such a great welcome. The week will be noted for its spirit of generosity and peacemaking," added Mr McGuinness.
Northern First Minister Peter Robinson also said the state visit had been a huge success and demonstrated a new relationship between Dublin and London and also between the North and South.
He said the relationship between the Northern administration and the Irish Government was the best it had ever been.