Reaction is pouring in to the Queen/McGuinness handshake in Belfast yesterday.
Max Hastings in the Daily Mail is unconvinced by the gesture, writing, “Thinking about McGuinness yesterday dragged me back through a time warp to the decade that began in 1969, when I seemed to spend half my life in Ulster. Those were terrible years, when I saw whole streets in flames, rival mobs armed with petrol bombs and dustbin lids hammering each other in Derry and Belfast; then men with guns and bombs killing and maiming in indiscriminate mayhem…I am cynical enough to doubt whether McGuinness is much interested in reconciliation. I fancy he shook the royal hand because he made a cold calculation that such a gesture would boost his political stature. He lost last year’s presidential election (in the Republic of Ireland) because many Irish people saw through the mask and recognised him for what he is.
More forgiving is the elderly daughter of Lord Louis Mountabtten, who was killed by the IRA when a boat he was in was blown up by the IRA at the Irish seaside resort of Mullaghmore. Countess Mountbatten, 88, who also lost her 14–year–old son Nicholas Knatchbull in the bomb, tells today’s Telegraph: "I think it's wonderful," she said. "I'm hugely grateful that we have come to a point where we can behave responsibly and positively."
The Irish Times says, “All is changed, changed utterly, and the Provisional republicans have irrevocably gone from the clenched fist to the open hand.”
And in the same paper, Gerry Moriarty writes: “It seemed fitting that one of the honoured guests yesterday was the Belfast poet Michael Longley, whose famous poem Ceasefire also came to mind. It tells of how the King of Troy, Priam, through conciliatory words and actions, persuaded Achilles to return to him the body of his son Hector whom Achilles killed in battle. The poem concludes with the two lines: 'I get down on my knees and do what must be done/ And kiss Achilles’s hand, the killer of my son.' There was a sense of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip doing what needed to be done, and being genuine in carrying out that action.”