The last day of Queen Elizabeth’s two-day visit to Northern Ireland was marked by an historic handshake and a huge party.
Her Majesty and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shook hands for the first time.
The meeting between the Queen and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister took place at a charity event in Belfast on Wednesday morning.
In the afternoon she attended a Diamond Jubilee party attended by 20,000 in Stormont.
The Queen and Martin McGuinness shook hands at a private meeting and later shook hands in public.
The private meeting, in a room at the theatre, involved a group of seven people, including Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson.
It is understood Martin McGuinness welcomed both the Queen and the Irish president in Irish.
The deputy first minister is said to have commented on the Queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the Troubles.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “He emphasized the need to acknowledge the pain of all victims of the conflict and their families.”
Sinn Fein said Martin McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”.
Later, as the Queen left to continue her Diamond Jubilee tour of Northern Ireland, the pair shook hands again, this time in public.
As they shook hands for a second time, Martin McGuinness wished the Queen well in Irish, which translates as: “Goodbye and God bless.”
When asked how it was to meet the Queen, Martin McGuinness replied “very nice.”
The main event had been billed as one to celebrate the role of the arts in contributing to reconciliation and peace-building and not as part of the Jubilee celebrations.
President Michael D. Higgins said he and his wife, Sabina, had been delighted “to have the opportunity for a brief but very warm meeting” with the Queen.
He said it marked “another important step on the journey to reconciliation on this island”.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland last year had “taken relations between the two countries to a new level”.
The spokesperson added: “We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community.”
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he very much welcomed the meeting between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Gerry Adams said: “It brings our journey of relationship building within this island and between these islands onto a new plane.”
He added: “I think the vast majority of unionists will be pleased this happened because they know it was essentially a real gesture towards their sense of identity and their sense of allegiance.”
“Whatever personal feelings Martin may have, no more than myself, doesn’t come into it. It was a good thing for him to do and I commend him for it,” he added.
Those present at the Lyric event included the pianist Barry Douglas, poet Michael Longley and actors Adrian Dunbar and Conleth Hill.
The Queen and Prince Philip later toured Titanic Belfast, a new visitors’ centre located near where the ship was built. She has also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit.
She enjoyed a lunch which included traditional Irish soda bread, Comber potatoes, the sweet toffee yellow man, and ice cream.
At the end of the day the Queen and Prince Philip were driven through the grounds of Northern Ireland’s seat of government in an open-topped vehicle.
The royal motorcade was cheered by around 20,000 attending a party to mark the monarch’s 60-year reign.