History unfolds: Queen, ex-IRA chief shake hands - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

History unfolds: Queen, ex-IRA chief shake hands

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -

The public is getting a chance to see what would have been unthinkable several years ago -- a handshake in Northern Ireland between Queen Elizabeth and a former Irish Republican Army commander.

The long-awaited encounter took place earlier today as the monarch and Martin McGuinness met privately inside Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

Media were barred from the first handshake during an ice-breaker over coffee and tea. But the two shook hands again a half-hour later for the cameras' benefit.

It was a demonstration of the progress toward reconciliation since the days when IRA leaders were plotting to kill the British royal family.

Experts say McGuinness is linked to the killing of the queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, in 1979.

During their handshake for the media both smiled broadly. McGuinness took the queen's white-gloved hand and spoke to her for about five seconds. The queen did not speak during the handshake but kept smiling.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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