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THE Queen will meet Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness next week and shake hands in an historic first for the Northern Ireland peace process, it was confirmed today.

The Deputy First Minister will attend a cross border event in Belfast on Wednesday, which the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, will also attend.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the decision had been taken by the party's ruling council at a four hour meeting in Dublin after consulting with grass roots support.

The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, a chief negotiator for Sinn Fein during tough talks to bring the IRA terror campaign to an end, turned down an invitation to meet the Queen during her visit to Ireland last year.

During that trip, the Queen won over many people by paying her respects to Ireland's patriot dead at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, among many other significant engagements.

The meeting and handshake will be a particularly poignant moment for the Queen whose cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA in 1979. Mr McGuinness is a former IRA commander.

Lord Mountbatten, whose country seat was at Broadlands in Romsey, was blown up by an IRA bomb while on a boat during a holiday in Ireland.