Queen, ex-IRA chief plan symbolic Belfast meeting

By Updated at 2012-06-27 09:08:31 +0000


BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II and a former Irish Republican Army commander are about to meet for the first time in a symbolic milestone for Northern Ireland's peace process, but journalists wanting to record the moment are being kept at bay.

The Wednesday's event will feature a handshake between the monarch and Martin McGuinness, whose Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein long has refused all contact with British royals. McGuinness is the senior Irish Catholic in Northern Ireland's 5-year-old unity government.

British officials say only two photographers are being admitted to record the occasion.

The queen is coming to Belfast as part of United Kingdom-wide celebrations of her 60th year on the throne. She is scheduled to see the city's Titanic exhibition and attend an open-air party involving 20,000 locals at Stormont, the hilltop base for the power-sharing government.

IRA die-hards opposed to the group's 2005 decision to renounce violence and disarm sought to express their disapproval of the queen's visit before she arrived.

Police said nine officers were injured, none seriously, during overnight rioting on the edge of Catholic west Belfast. They said a crowd of about 100 teens and young men bombarded police units with 21 petrol bombs and other makeshift weapons. No arrests were reported, though police cameras videotaped the masked, hooded attackers in hopes of identifying them later.

And in a separate confrontation Tuesday night, one Catholic man was hospitalized after rival Protestant and Catholic groups clashed on the hilltop overlooking Catholic west Belfast. The Protestants were trying to vandalize a massive political display erected by the Catholics featuring an Irish flag and a slogan rejecting the queen.