Queen, Ex-IRA Chief Shake Hands
Queen Elizabeth, Martin McGuinness meet in Northern Ireland
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2012 7:01 AM CDT
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Martin McGuinness watched by First minister Peter Robinson, centre, at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, June 27, 2012.   (AP Photo/Paul Faith/pool)

(Newser) – A hugely symbolic moment of reconciliation occurred across the pond today, as Queen Elizabeth II shook hands with a former Irish Republican Army commander. The New York Times describes it as "one of the most anticipated gestures in recent Irish history," and the Times and the Telegraph prop up its importance by noting a trio of historical tidbits: Martin McGuinness was allegedly a senior member of the IRA when the group murdered her cousin, Earl Mountbatten, in 1979; the IRA targeted the queen herself; and the queen serves as commander-in-chief of Britain's armed forces, which just so happened to be the IRA's longtime archenemy.

The reconciliation began to take shape 13 months ago, when the queen made a significant trip to the Irish Republic, but there's still tension: After she arrived in Belfast yesterday as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebration, protesters threw Molotov cocktails in one section of the city, injuring nine police officers. Fearing a terrorist attack, police cordoned off the area within a mile of the theater where the queen and McGuinness met while viewing an art exhibition. McGuinness, now Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, reportedly told the queen, in Irish, "Goodbye and God speed."