Martin McGuinness, the former member of the IRA who is now deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, has said he would welcome his handshake with Queen Elizabeth tomorrow being recorded, paving the way for cameras to be allowed to film the encounter.
Mr McGuinness has said on several occasions that he was a member of the IRA, but claims he left the organisation in 1974.
The comments came in an interview with independent Irish journalist Eammon Mallie:
"Throughout the world this will be seen as one of the most symbolic handshakes ever seen. For me its about extending the hand of peace and reconciliation. Why should I see any value in disrespecting the unionist community? ... This will send a very clear message to people that the conflict is over."
He adds: "I don't have a problem in this being recorded. I am the sort of person when I decide to do something I am prepared to stand over it."
Mallie asks who is 'blocking' the handshake being photographed and McGuinness replies: "I don't think anybody is. I don't believe it is in the interests of anyone participating in it to be behind closed doors."
Mr McGuinness told the Irish Times taht he was quite conscious that Lord Louis Mountbatten, murdered by the IRA in 1979, was an uncle of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, who will also attend the Co-operation Ireland arts event in Belfast tomorrow.He said, however, that he had no plans to make reference to that IRA attack during his conversation with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.He added, “I represent people who have been terribly hurt by British state violence over many years. I also recognise I am going to meet someone who has also been hurt as a result of the conflict, and someone who is very conscious that in many homes in Britain there are parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters of British soldiers who were sent here who lost their lives in the conflict.”He said he had not decided how he would address Queen Elizabeth but made clear it was unlikely to be “Your majesty”.“These are not the sort of terms I use when I speak to people,” he said, adding that “grandiose” titles did not “sit easily” with him.
The Queen and Mr McGuinness are set to meet initially in private alongside a handful of VIPs.
The handshaket comes after the Queen's groundbreaking visit here last year when she laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, which honours republicans who died fighting British rule, followed by a tour of the GAA headquarters before she spoke Irish at a banquet in her honour.