In an historic encounter, the Queen has shaken the hand of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

The simple handshake would have seemed unthinkable just a decade ago.

They met behind closed doors in a room within Belfast's Lyric Theatre during an event celebrating the arts in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

In a quiet space used by the Lyric for creative learning, the two were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson, Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Martin McGuinness Credit: PA

Called the McGrath Suite, named in honour of benefactor Harvey McGrath, the former chairman of the British insurer Prudential, and his wife Allison, the room is usually filled with toddlers enjoying story telling sessions or drama students taking part in workshops.

Today it was sparsely furnished with leather seating - four chairs and a sofa - set around a round wooden table decorated with flowers, with refreshments of tea, coffee and still and sparkling water on a side table.

The floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out on to landscaped gardens and the River Lagan, were covered with curtains.

Later as the Queen left the theatre she and Mr Guinness publicly shook hands. Royal Correspondent Tim Ewart reports: