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Northern Ireland: Ex IRA man Martin McGuinness to meet Queen for first time

Until now, McGuinness and Sinn Fein party leaders boycotted royal visits.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, will meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth for the first time next week.

RTE reports that McGuinness' party Sinn Fein decided to go ahead with the meeting  after meeting in Dublin.  It will take place when the Queen visits Belfast next week, The Independent says, but will take place at a reception organized by the peace-building charity Cooperation Ireland and not at a jubilee event.

Reuters explains the meeting "marks a milestone in the province's peace process" and explains that the Queen has never before met a senior figure of the IRA or its political wing Sinn Fein.  The now-defunct organization killed her cousin Lord Mountbatten in 1979 when he was visiting the Republic of Ireland.   In the past, Sinn Fein leaders boycotted royal visits to Ireland.

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Sinn Fein's president Gerry Adams acknowledged that the decision may be considered controversial by some, The Irish Times reported. "This will understandably cause difficulty for republicans and nationalists, especially those who have suffered at the hands of British forces," he is quoted as saying, adding that it was "good for Ireland" and "the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reasons".

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the meeting would be "a most significant event," according to the BBC.  However, UKPA says that the historic handshake between the two will take place behind closed doors at the beginning of the engagement.

The president of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, will also attend, says Associated Press.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/ireland/120622/northern-ireland-ex-ira-man-martin-mcguinness-meet-queen