Martin McGuinness has held a historic one-on-one meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in Belfast – and praised her role in the peace process.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister met the English monarch for 10 minutes at Hillsborough Castle during her state visit.
Afterwards he praised the queen as a ‘passionate supporter’ of the peace process after their third meeting and the first one-to-one encounter.
The Sinn Fein veteran and former IRA commander described the meeting as ‘very nice’ and ‘useful.’
McGuinness told the Irish Independent: “It was a very nice and useful meeting with Queen Elizabeth.
“Remember I am an Irish republican. I was an Irish republican when I went in there and I am still a very proud Irish republican, but I also have a very important ministerial position.
“My job is to represent everybody, my job is to provide real and positive leadership – that’s what I am trying to do.
“And I think in these engagements with Queen Elizabeth, and this is the third, I always see these as an opportunity to reach out, to stretch out the hand of friendship to the unionist community here in the north.
“And I think from the contributions made by Queen Elizabeth it’s quite clear indeed – her visit to Dublin, meeting me in Belfast two years ago, the visit to Windsor palace and again today – that she is someone who absolutely and passionately supports the peace process and supports big acts of reconciliation.”
The Queen, on her 21st visit to Ulster, also had an audience with Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson, who noted the significance of her meeting with McGuinness.
Robinson said: “I think the fact the Deputy First Minister is in sitting with an audience with the Queen at this moment perhaps demonstrates just how far we have come.” he said.
The Queen and Prince Philip later visited the set of hit US fantasy drama "Game Of Thrones" in east Belfast today.