Queen in private meeting with McGuinness

Queen in private meeting with McGuinness

The Queen held her ever first private meeting with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Hillsborough Castle on Monday night.

The monarch and Prince Phillip are in Northern Ireland for a three day visit.They landed at George Best Belfast City Airport earlier in the evening before making their way to their official residence at Hillsborough Castle.The Queen first met with DUP leader, First Minister Peter Robinson, and then separately with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.The monarch told them both that it was "great to be back" in Northern Ireland.Emerging from Hillsborough Castle, Mr Robinson said: "I think the fact that her itinerary can be given out beforehand so that people can be close to those event centres is another real change."And, of course, the sun is shining - that's another real change."He added: "I think the fact the deputy First Minister is in sitting with an audience with the Queen at this moment perhaps demonstrates just how far we have come."Mr McGuinness told the awaiting press afterwards that it was "a very nice and useful meeting" with the Queen.He praised her as a passionate supporter of the peace process."Remember I am an Irish republican, I was an Irish republican when I went in there and I am still a very proud Irish republican, but I'm also in a very important ministerial position," he said."And I think in these engagements with Queen Elizabeth - and this is the third - I always see these as an opportunity to reach out, to stretch out the hand of friendship to the unionist community here in the north."My job is to represent everybody, my job is to provide real and positive leadership - that's what I am trying to do.Martin McGuinnessHe continued: "And I think from the contributions made by Queen Elizabeth it is quite clear to me from her visit to Dublin, meeting me in Belfast two years ago, the visit to Windsor palace and again today, that she is someone who absolutely and passionately supports the peace process and supports big acts of reconciliation."The Queen has a number of engagements on Tuesday and Wednesday, including a visit to the Titanic Studios, where US fantasy drama Game of Thrones is being filmed in the city's regenerated docklands.It is expected that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will meet some of those involved in making the hit show.The Royal couple will tour Crumlin Road Gaol and attend a special market celebrating the 'Best of Belfast' at St George's Market, followed by a lunch at City Hall.They will also attend a garden party at Hillsborough Castle, which is playing host to the Antiques Road Show this week.The Queen and Duke will also attend a Royal British Legion reception in Coleraine, Co Londonderry.The Queen and Duke last visited Northern Ireland in 2012 as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.It was then that a historic handshake between the Queen and the Sinn Féin deputy First Minister, a former IRA commander, took place in Belfast's Lyric Theatre.In April, Mr McGuinness met and shook the British monarch's hand once again, this time in Windsor Castle during a state visit from Irish President Michael D Higgins.A great honour to have HM Queen visit NI. A Sign of progress that such visits can now be announced in advance pic.twitter.com/iLJZknmdll— Peter Robinson (@DUPleader) June 23, 2014


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