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Sunday 17 December 2017

The handshake that was 'never' to take placePresident Mary McAleese welcomes Dr Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen to Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin yesterday. maxwells

Fergus Black

PERHAPS his greatest piece of oratory was when he denounced the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement with his booming "Never, never, never".

But yesterday, Dr Ian Paisley was all smiles as he and his wife Eileen dropped in for for a spot of lunch at the big white house in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Such an outing to Aras an Uachtarain would have been impossible to imagine a quarter of a century ago.

But after yesterday's visit to the Dail and a trip to Glasnevin cemetery with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, where he viewed the tomb of the Great Liberator Daniel O'Connell, anything is possible.

The Paisleys were greeted by President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese when they arrived for a private lunch at the Aras shortly after 12.30pm yesterday.

Although it was Dr Paisley's first trip to Aras an Uachtarain, it was not his first encounter with President McAleese -- they first met in 2007 at the Somme heritage centre in Bangor.

As they arrived yesterday, President McAleese was heard to remark on how colour coordinated the visitors were -- a reference to Dr Paisley's mauve and black striped tie and the ensemble worn by his wife.

Then, after signing the visitors' book, the couple were whisked away to the state dining room, where they tucked into a lunch that included melon with bresaola Italian beef as a starter.

This was followed by supreme of Donegal Bay salmon with potatoes and spinach and was finished off with lemon souffle for dessert.

The guests were joined at lunch by former Belfast Lord Mayor Ian Adamson and by the President's secretary general Adrian O'Neill.

The two-hour visit was completed with some live entertainment by a group of five children aged 12 to 15 from the Rathcairn gaeltacht in Co Meath.

Irish Independent

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