First the Queen visits the Republic of Ireland, speaks Irish and then she surprises us once again and goes a step farther by going to Northern Ireland and shaking hands with Martin McGuinness.
What more can the woman do to try and shake off the shackles of history. At 86 years of age she’s really going at it and one wonders what the next step will be for the royal who doesn’t believe in retirement.
She has visited more countries than any other monarch in history and has done more to raise the profile of the commonwealth, yet the significance behind the handshake marked another landmark in her glittering career.
When I put this question regarding the difference the handshake made to Irish and British citizens alike, I received a mixed response.
Welshman Andy feels relatively positive about the shake but thinks that Martin McGuinness is “still Republican for those who are worried he has gone soft by meeting the Queen but it’s got to be a good thing”. The general air of positivity surrounding the handshake is echoed by former Irish Times columnist Cillian Fahy who says “it’s a great move and marks the next step forward in the peace process”.
However Irish language speaker Micheal believes the Queen deserves respect for what she must have gone through in taking part in the proceedings “If anything, it’s a greater sacrifice for the Queen, given her cousin (Lord Mountbatten) was murdered by the IRA”.
Not all feel the handshake between the former prominent IRA commander and the British monarch was a good move, Irish bar manager Gareth thinks “Its the greatest propaganda since Aldolf Hitler, Sinn Fein want power north and south of the border” with indifference echoed by engineer, Colm “I don’t think we’ll gain much from the handshake but if he didn’t do it, the peace process in Northern Ireland would have gone back 20 years”.
One thing can be sure, the significance of the handshake has not moved the peace process backwards, scars still burn across Northern Ireland and bodies are still unaccounted for as one feels only time will heal the wounds that run deep on all sides.