Former IRA leader Martin McGuinness has publicly admitted that he likes the Queen of England – and he has praised her courage in agreeing to meet with him.

The Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland made the admission in a radio interview with the BBC.

McGuinness said he ‘likes’ Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

He also paid tribute to her courage when she agreed to first meet him when they shook hands at a charity event in Belfast in 2012, a gesture of reconciliation which he admits was ‘highly symbolic.’

The pair have met on several occasions since, including last summer when McGuinness guided the Queen around Belfast’s former Crumlin Road prison where he was incarcerated during the Troubles.

McGuinness said: “I liked her courage in agreeing to meet with me; I liked the engagements that I’ve had with her.

“There’s nothing I have seen in my engagements with her that this is someone I should dislike. I like her.”

Former IRA commander McGuinness added that the British monarch understood the significance of the peace process.

He said: “I know who Queen Elizabeth represents. I know she’s the head of the British state. I know she has all sorts of titles in relation to different regiments in the British army.

“She knows my history. She knows I was a member of the IRA. She knows I was in conflict with her soldiers, yet both of us were prepared to rise above all of that.”

Earlier this year, McGuinness attended a Windsor Castle banquet given by the Queen in honor of the state visit to Britain by Irish president Michael D Higgins.

At the event he joined in a toast to the monarch as an orchestra played "God Save The Queen."