No handshake photo of queen and McGuinness to be released


THERE WILL be no photograph released of next Wednesday’s scheduled handshake between Queen Elizabeth and Martin McGuinness in Belfast, according to current arrangements for the encounter.

The press and public will also be excluded from the arts event, which Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness and the queen will attend on Wednesday in the company of President Michael D Higgins and First Minister Peter Robinson.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said yesterday evening there were no “definitive” arrangements in relation to whether there would be press access to the reception on Wednesday.

A senior source was categorical, however, that no reporters or press photographers would be allowed at the event and that there would be no photograph of the planned handshake. Co-operation Ireland, which is hosting the event at the Lyric theatre, said it would be closed to media.

There may be further negotiations on the question of a handshake photograph, which underscores the sensitivity of the meeting, particularly for Sinn Féin.

The current arrangement is that a Buckingham Palace photographer and camera person will take a group photograph featuring the queen and Mr McGuinness, and that photograph will be released to the media.

If a handshake photo is not released it would not be the first time in contentious circumstances: when then president Mary Robinson met Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams for the first time in June 1993, there was no photographic record of the event given to the press.

Mr Adams said in Dublin the meeting was “good for Ireland” and a “significant initiative, involving major political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicanism”.

Mr Robinson said: “We recognise that this will be a difficult ask for her majesty the queen and a significant step for republicans.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in Cork last night: “This is a follow-through from the normalisation of relations with the queen and the former president brought to a conclusion in Dublin Castle.”

Former US president Bill Clinton, who was with the Taoiseach at the Ireland Funds gala, said: “It is a very good thing. First of all it says to the people of the UK and to the doubters in Northern Ireland that he and Gerry Adams and the vast majority of Sinn Féin and the IRA have abandoned the strategy of conflict for the promise of co-operation.”