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Owen Paterson welcomes Queen's handshake with Martin McGuinness

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2012-06-27 at 13.45.31

The handshake has happened. Twice in fact. Once when Her Majesty met Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister in private and then, again, in public. Ther Duke of Edinburgh (Earl Mountbatten's uncle nephew) also shook the hand of the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

On this lunchtime's World at One the Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said it was the right thing to have happened. Noone, he said, should underestimate the pain felt by the royal family at the "appalling" murder of Lord Mountbatten but we all have to look to the future and this was about building a "new Northern Ireland". The Queen should meet all elected public officials during her Jubilee tour, he continued, and didn't have to agree with the political views of everyone she met. He said there was "massive public excitement" across the whole NI community at the Queen's visit and later today 20,000 people were set to greet her when she visits Parliament Buildings.

Last week Paul Goodman likened the handshake to Mr McGuinness waving a Union flag. Former Thatcher adviser John O'Sullivan disagrees. Writing for National Review Online he said the Sinn Fein politician had shown insufficient repentence for his past deeds:

"If McGuinness were to offer a heartfelt confession of his crimes, make a sincere apology to his victims, and ask for their forgiveness — as other former members of the IRA and the Protestant paramilitaries have done — then the Queen would have good reason to shake his hand in recognition that he had begun to go down the road of truth and reconciliation. Without that, she will be shaking hands not with murder only but also with lies, hypocrisy, and a fragile expediency."

Read his full piece.


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