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      What’s Behind That Handshake?

      The Queen shakes hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in Belfast.

      The queen was wearing green. Since she was silent, we assume this was a message of sorts to the Irish people as she prepared for her historic handshake with Martin McGuinness, a republican former IRA commander and now a co-leader of the Northern Irish power-sharing government. Meanwhile, Irish republicans staged a militant protest in Belfast and came under siege by infuriated loyalists. What was really behind this symbolic step in the continuing peace process? From an inside source in Belfast comes this analysis:

      "The McGuinness move will boost Sinn Fein [SF] south of the Border and will wrongfoot our opponents. It will marginalise opponents of SF and those who refuse to speak to SF and local residents groups. It will increase the popularity of McGuinness with the unionist electorate, crucial to our continued expansion. They are no longer coming out in the same numbers to prevent SF getting elected in areas like South Belfast.

      "Not least it will project McGuinness on the world stage, confirming his status as international peacemaker and probably one of best known Irish politicians globally.

      "The handshake which will have more impact outside republican areas than inside. Of course, we need to calm republicans who don't feel confident enough to deal with the English Queen as equals. Our leader met their leader after a long war. Time to make peace and move forward.”

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