- 12 updates
The decision to have Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness meet the Queen next week is an effort to reach out to unionists in Northern Ireland, his party leader has said.
Gerry Adams told republicans in west Belfast that he opposed the idea of monarchy, but wanted to reassure unionists of their place in his vision of a united Ireland.
He said his party was correct to boycott the Queen's historic visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, but predicted the historic handshake planned for Wednesday would be a milestone in the peace process.
Ireland's President has hailed plans for an historic handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.
President Michael D Higgins will also attend the event where the long awaited encounter is set to take place in Belfast next Wednesday.
The charity Co-operation Ireland is hosting a celebration of culture on the island of Ireland in Belfast's Lyric Theatre and the venue will provide the stage for the first meeting between Sinn Fein and the Queen.
President Higgins, who is visiting Irish communities in Britain, said: "I accepted the invitation on the basis that it would be an inclusive occasion."
He said he hoped the meeting would help foster reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
The historic handshake planned between the Queen and Martin McGuinness is not the only tough meeting for the Queen.
After 60 years our Queen has:
- Made over 300 state visits abroad.
- Around 25,000 visits around Britain to greet, meet, open and tour events or buildings.
- Hosted more than 100 state banquets for foreign heads of state, including Robert Mugabe and Nicolae Ceausescu.
- Conferred 400,000 honours.
- Dealt with around 150 prime ministers in Britain and the Commonwealth.
- Received 3.5m pieces of correspondence.
Colin Parry, whose son Tim died in an IRA bomb blast in Warrington in 1993, has welcomed a meeting between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.
Mr Parry said the historic handshake with the former IRA commander, was a sign of how much progress was being made in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton welcomed Sinn Fein's decision:
First Minister Peter Robinson said he was glad the deputy first minister had accepted the invitation.
Former Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit, whose wife was paralysed in the 1984 Brighton bombing, said:
The Tory peer added:
The meeting is understood to be taking place in the Lyric Theatre in south Belfast and is sponsored by Co-operation Ireland, which works to bring divided communities together.
Since it was established in 1979, the charity has created opportunities for groups from the two main religious communities in Northern Ireland and from both sides of the border to learn about each other's traditions and cultures.
The handshake will be viewed as another in a long list of dramatic advances in Anglo-Irish relations.
Sinn Fein have stressed the meeting is not a celebration of the Jubilee.
There has been speculation since the Queen's momentous visit to Ireland in May last year that a senior Sinn Fein figure would meet her at an event.
Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, was always the candidate to shake the Queen's hand but delicate talks have been going on for months to arrange a suitable venue and occasion.
Latest ITV News reports
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness will meet the Queen next week and shake hands in an historic first for the Northern Ireland peace process.