Martin McGuiness will meet Her Majesty the Queen and shake her hand in Northern Ireland. This is a seminal moment. It does not change McGuiness’s commitment to a united Ireland, but it is a strong statement from the Republican side that bygones are bygones. It is also a sign, perhaps, that the sacrifices Britain made over the Bloody Sunday Inquiry where worthwhile, because McGuiness is making a brave sacrifice by doing this: there will be those who condemn him for it.
It is also significant that the Palace has achieved this. The conflict in Northern Ireland and the dark historical relations between Britain and Ireland are causes close to the Queen’s heart; and she has made peace and reconciliation a mission of her reign. There was clear evidence of this during her historic visit to Ireland last year, where she made a long and heartfelt speech on the ties that bind two proud nations. Shaking hands with McGuiness is the culmination of 60-years’ work; she deserves congratulations for the part she has played in making peace.