'Handshake of friendship' | 

Five key moments in Queen Elizabeth II’s relationship with Ireland

The British queen’s four-day visit to Ireland in May 2011 was historic.

This handshake between Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II was viewed as deeply symbolic.

Eoghan MoloneyIndependent.ie

The British queen’s four-day visit to Ireland in May 2011 was historic. It was the first state visit to the country by a reigning British monarch since the formation of the Republic.

Historic visit to Ireland

As part of her visit, she visited Áras an Uachtaráin, the Garden of Remembrance, Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, the National Stud, Coolmore, the Rock of Cashel and Cork’s English Market.

She laid a wreath to honour those who died for Irish independence, which was deeply symbolic.

There were protests held in opposition to her visit but it was generally well received in Ireland.

‘A Uachtaráin agus a chairde’

The cúpla focail she uttered during her 2011 visit, at a dinner in Dublin Castle, was also seen as a very symbolic move.

The British monarch addressed President Mary McAleese and those in attendance as Gaeilge, which drew a standing ovation.

The speech paid homage to all those who worked tirelessly to normalise relations between both nations and especially those who worked on the Good Friday Agreement to allow Northern Ireland to become “the exciting and inspirational place that it is today”.

Handshake with Martin McGuinness

Queen Elizabeth II's visit was seen as a precursor to further co-operation. A lasting, iconic image in the progression of the peace process was the handshake between her and Martin McGuinness.

It was viewed as a moment of historic significance and reconciliation that a former IRA commander and the British monarch would shake hands.

Following the meeting in 2012, Mr McGuinness said he liked the queen, adding that the meeting had the potential to define "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".

In a speech in Westminster, he described the handshake as “the hand of friendship”.

The assassination of her cousin, Lord Mountbatten

The British queen’s cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. He had been targeted due to his military background and links to the British royal family.

The IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing – which also claimed the life of three of Mountbatten’s relatives – and said it was “a discriminate act to bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country”.

The British monarch, along with the rest of the royal family, attended Mountbatten’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. His death marked a turning point and escalation of the Troubles.

07/07/1977 of (left to right) Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Silver Jubilee procession© PA

Visits to Northern Ireland

Queen Elizabeth II first visited the island of Ireland in 1945 as a princess, when her first ever flight took her to Long Kesh Aerodrome, which was later converted to the prison containing the H blocks.

Three years before the beginning of the Troubles in 1969, a republican protester dropped a concrete block on the queen’s car as she was being driven toward Belfast during a visit.

Despite tensions before the Good Friday Agreement, the British queen invited then-President Mary Robinson to Buckingham Palace for tea in 1993. It was the first official meeting between the heads of state of Ireland and Britain.

At the meeting, Ms Robinson said she would like for the British monarch to visit Ireland, who responded by saying: “You have no idea how much that would please me.”

It would be a further 18 years, but the state visit did eventually happen, in 2011.

The queen cancelled a scheduled visit to Northern Ireland in October last year due to a health concern.

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