History may well be in the making as Sinn Fein look set to meet Queen Elizabeth during her Diamond Jubilee visit to Northern Ireland later this month.
On Thursday, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will visit Northern Ireland on June 26-27 as part of their UK wide tour to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
The Queen has regularly visited Northern Ireland throughout the past four decades, but none of her previous visits were announced in advance, to curb any threat of dissident violence.
Last year, Sinn Fein leaders declined to meet the Queen during her first state visit to the Republic, but Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has since stated that he would be willing to meet the head of the monarchy if she were to return to Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, First Minister Peter Robinson recognized that Sinn Fein’s decision to meet the Queen would not be taken lightly.
"There is no doubt it would be a difficult decision to be taken both by her majesty and by Sinn Fein. There's a lot of history, but the history is on both sides in these issues," Robinson said outside Stormont Castle in east Belfast.
"In the past, only a select few got to greet her majesty the Queen and most people would have been unaware that a visit was even taking place," Robinson said.
" The public will have the best opportunity in my lifetime to be able to see and greet her majesty the queen. This is testimony to the changed times in which we live."
Last month McGuinness, a former IRA chief, said republicans were on "journey of reconciliation and dialogue with unionists".
Speaking after the Queen’s visit to Ireland last year, he remarked that he wouldn’t rule out meeting the Queen in the future.
McGuinness told the BBC's Inside Politics programme: "I've made it clear that the visit of Queen Elizabeth of Britain to the south was something that we looked at with considerable interest.
"I think the fact that she was prepared to recognise the importance of the Irish language, that she was prepared to stand in a very dignified way to honour those patriots who struggled in 1916 to bring about a free and independent 32-county Irish Republic, that made an impact upon me.
"So that's an issue that I will ponder, and I wouldn't rule anything out."
A recent Belfast Telegraph straw poll indicated that a majority (54 percent) supported McGuinness meeting the Queen, while 30 percent opposed.
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