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Former IRA commander awaits meeting with Queen, as she begins tour of Northern Ireland

Britain's Queen Elizabeth has set off on her Diamond Jubilee tour of Northern Ireland – where she will shake hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

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Picture taken on June 3, 2012 shows Britain's Queen Elizabeth (L) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, standing onboard the Spirit of Chartwell during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London. (John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has begun a trip to Northern Ireland, where she will meet – and shake hands with – the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, the Associated Press reported.

The historic event, which is separate from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour, will take place Wednesday at a function being attended by McGuinness in his role as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister.

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It's unclear if the moment – the first official meeting between Queen Elizabeth and a representative of the Sinn Fein party – will be photographed but, speaking to the Irish Times last night, McGuinness said: “My hope is that there will be a photograph, absolutely, I don’t have any difficulty with that at all.”

Although details of the Queen's two-day visit are being kept under wraps, it has been revealed that the monarch, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, is today attending a thanksgiving service at Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh.

Eleven people were killed in the town in 1987 when the IRA exploded a bomb at the Enniskillen war memorial on Remembrance Sunday, in what is known as the “Poppy Day Massacre.”

According to the London Telegraph, the Queen's visit has divided the town, with one resident, Stephen Gault, who lost his father in the explosion, telling the media it was hard to accept McGuinness shaking the Queen's hand, given the nobody had been brought to justice for the atrocity.

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Ahead of her meeting with McGuinness, which is being hailed as a milestone in Anglo-Irish relations, the Queen will travel to Stormont, Belfast, for a garden party attended by 22,000 guests in the grounds of the parliament buildings.

The Queen's trip to the north comes after a ground-breaking four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland last year.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/120626/queen-elizabeth-shake-hands-ira-martin-mcguinness