Thursday 21 September 2017

A moment of deep symbolism

Yesterday's handshake between Queen Elizabeth and the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was an occasion loaded with symbolism. Having completely misjudged popular opinion in the Republic at the time of the queen's visit to this part of the island in May 2011, Sinn Fein was determined not to make the same mistake twice.

Even a decade ago the notion that Mr McGuinness, a former chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, would shake hands publicly with Queen Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh would have been considered utterly absurd. Yesterday's carefully choreographed encounter between the queen and Mr McGuinness at Belfast's Lyric Theatre showed just how far we have come.

Of course Sinn Fein, as is its wont, milked the occasion for all it was worth in propaganda terms. The protracted 'will he, won't he' routine ensured that it was Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein who dominated the headlines in the days leading up to the queen's visit to the North.

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