Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 July 2015

Royal visit: Queen holds first one-to-one meeting with Martin McGuinness

Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have arrived in Northern Ireland for a three-day Royal visit

Published 23/06/2014 | 18:35

Queen Elizabeth II attends a service at the war memorial on June 25, 2014 in Coleraine (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II attends a service at the war memorial on June 25, 2014 in Coleraine (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Two ladies dressed in 1914 period costume to mark the year of the Great War, before Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Coleraine Town Hall. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Coleraine Town Hall on day three of the Royal visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II with Antiques Roadshow experts (from left) Hilary Kay, Paul Atterby and John Axford inspect a piece by French sculptor Pierre-Jules Mene of the 1863 Derby winner Macaroni, at Hillsborough Castle. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II meeting members of the public during a wreath laying ceremony marking the centenary of the First World War at Coleraine Town Hall. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a wreath laying ceremony marking the centenary of the First World War at Coleraine Town Hall on day three of the Royal visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a wreath laying ceremony marking the centenary of the First World War at Coleraine Town Hall on day three of the Royal visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and and the Duke of Edinburgh talks to Antiques Roadshow experts Hilary Kay at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast on the third and final day of her visit to Northern Ireland. Aaron McCracken/Harrisons/PA Wire
Local people strain to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on June 25, 2014 in Coleraine (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Ladies in World War One period costumes await the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on June 25, 2014 in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II signs the visitor book prior to departing Hillsborough Castle, on the third and final day of the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland, on June 25, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Brian Lawless - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II meets with Antiques Roadshow experts (left to right) Hilary Kay, Paul Atterby and John Axford at Hillsborough Castle, during filming of the show on the third and final day of her visit to Northern Ireland, on June 25, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Brian Lawless - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh talk to Antiques Roadshow experts Hilary Kay, John Axford and Paul Atterbury at Hillsborough castle on June 25, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo byAaron McCracken/Harrison Photography via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II signs the visitor book prior to departing Hillsborough Castle, on the third and final day of the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland, on June 25, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Brian Lawless - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen with (left to right) Hilary Kay, Paul Atterby and John Axford at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast
The Queen chats with Zoe Long aged 7 from Killyleagh at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrison Photography
The Duke of Edinburgh pictured with the Deputy Mayor of Lisburn Andrew Ewing at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
The Queen pictured with the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers planting a tree at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
he Duke of Edinburgh pictured with guests at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
Dame Mary Peters attends a garden party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle on June 24, 2014 near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
The Duke of Edinburgh pictured with the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle. This was the last of the official engagements on day two of the Royal visit. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
Queen Elizabeth II meets guests during a garden party held at Hillsborough Castle, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend a garden party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle on June 24, 2014 near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II, Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (L) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh meet guests during a garden party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle on June 24, 2014 near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II (R) walks with Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during a garden party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle on June 24, 2014 near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Hillsborough Castle before attending a Garden Party on June 24, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo M T Hurson /Harrison Photography via Getty Images)
A local youth takes a selfie photograph in front of Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to St George's indoor market on June 24, 2014 in Belfast
HRH Queen Elizabeth at St George's Market. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon shows Queen and Duke of Edinburgh the famous Battle of the Somme painting by J P Beadle. Pic William Cherry
PACEMAKER BELFAST 24/06/2014 Crowds welcome HRH The Queen who arrives at Belfast City Hall on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Game of Thrones cast members Lena Heady (Queen Cersei Lannister) Conleith Hill (Lord Varys), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) from the hit HBO show awit the arrival of Her Majesty The Queen. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Game of Thrones cast members, Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) from the hit HBO show nervously await the arrival of Her Majesty The Queen. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Game of Thrones television show cast member Lena Heady who plays Queen Cersei Lannister talks to the media after meeting the Queen at the hit HBO show this morning. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Some of the costumes and weapons on display in the prop room as Her Majesty The Queen alongside his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Game of Thrones television set Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Game of Thrones television show cast member Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark smiles whilst meeting the Queen at the hit HBO show this morning. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at St George's Market. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
Game of Thrones television show cast member Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) talks to the media after meeting the Queen at the hit HBO show set this morning. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at St George's Market. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
HRH The Queen arrives at Belfast City Hall on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
HRH The Queen arrives at Belfast City Hall with Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh pictured with Belfast City Councillors in the Rotunda of City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon welcomes The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at City Hall today where they attended a lunch
Her Majesty The Queen alongside his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visits the Game of Thrones television set in Belfast's Titanic quarter this morning and met with cast members Lena Heady (Queen Cersei Lannister) Conleith Hill (Lord Varys), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and executives from the hit HBO show. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived for a visit to St. Georges Market in Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland
Queen Elizabeth II during a walk around St. Georges Market in Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland
Two young girls try taking a selfie with Queen Elizabeth II during a walk around St. Georges Market in Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. PicLiam McBurney/PA Wire
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit the Game of Thrones set as part of her three-day tour of Belfast. Pic Arthur Allison
The Queen arrives at Crumlin Road Gaol. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Members of the public await the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh outside the Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. PicLiam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. PicLiam McBurney/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the set of Game of Thrones on day two of a visit to Belfast Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the public await the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh outside the Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, on day two of their visit to Northern Ireland. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: Prince Philip Arrives at the Crumlin Road Jail Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: Lord Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon arrives at the Crumlin Road Jail Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: The Queens cavalcade makes its way up the Crumlin Road Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: Queen Elizabeth and Dame Mary Peters Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 24/06/2014 HRH Large crowds turn out as The Queen arrives at Crumlin Road Gaol on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 24/06/2014 HRH The Queen arrives at Crumlin Road Gaol with dame Mary Peters on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 24/06/2014 HRH Large crowds turn out as The Queen arrives at Crumlin Road Gaol on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 24/06/2014 HRH Large crowds turn out as The Queen arrives at Crumlin Road Gaol on day 2 of her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: Prince Philip waves to Royalists at the Crumlin Road Jail Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
© Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 24th June 2014 Mandatory Credit - Kevin Scott / Presseye Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visit the Curmlin Road Jail in North Belfast Pictured: Queen Elizabeth and Price Philip meet Dame Mary Peters Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Queen Elizabeth II meets First Minister Martin McGuinness during a private audience at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, at the beginning of a three day Royal visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II meets First Minister Peter Robinson during a private audience at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, at the beginning of a three day Royal visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II meets Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers during a private audience at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, at the beginning of a three day Royal visit to Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 23, 2014. See PA story ROYAL Ulster. Photo credit should read: Aaron McCracken/Harrisons/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II meets First Minister Martin McGuinness during a private audience at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, at the beginning of a three day Royal visit to Northern Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth II meets First Minister Peter Robinson during a private audience at Hillsborough Castle, Belfast, at the beginning of a three day Royal visit to Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 23, 2014. See PA story ROYAL Ulster. Photo credit should read: Aaron McCracken/Harrisons/PA Wire
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at George Best Belfast City Airport on the start of their three day visit. They were greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Mary Peters, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 23: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are met by David Lindsay, Lord Lieutenant of County Down (L) as they arrive at Hillsborough Castle on June 23, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at George Best Belfast City Airport on the start of their three day visit. They were greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Mary Peters, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
Dorothy Douglas, Gloria Matchett, David Coopey and George Rowley sit patiently outside The Plough Bar waiting for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsbourgh Castle with the Duke of Edinburgh to begin a three visit to Northern Ireland.
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at George Best Belfast City Airport on the start of their three day visit. They were greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Mary Peters, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 23: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are met by David Lindsay, Lord Lieutenant of County Down (2L) as they arrive at Hillsborough Castle on June 23, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at George Best Belfast City Airport on the start of their three day visit. They were greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Mary Peters, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive at George Best Belfast City Airport on the start of their three day visit. They were greeted by Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Mary Peters, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive George Best Belfast City Airport. Photo M T Hurson/Harrisons
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 23: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Hillsborough Castle on June 23, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
The Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
The Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
The Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography
The Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography

Martin McGuinness has praised the Queen as a passionate supporter of the Northern Ireland peace process after they held their first ever one to one meeting.

The former IRA commander described his ten minute private audience with the monarch at Hillsborough Castle in Co Down as "very nice" and "useful".

It was the Queen's third encounter with Mr McGuinness but their first on an individual to individual basis.

Coming at the start of a three day visit to the region by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the meeting provided more evidence of the on-going efforts to normalise relations between Irish republicans and the British establishment in the post conflict era.

Further proof will be exhibited publicly tomorrow when Mr McGuinness accompanies the Royal couple on a tour of the old Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast - a prison the politician was detained in himself during the Troubles.

"It was a very nice and useful meeting with Queen Elizabeth," Mr McGuinness said as he emerged from Hillsborough Castle.

"Remember I am an Irish republican, I was an Irish republican when I went in there and I am still a very proud Irish republican, but I also have a very important ministerial position. My job is to represent everybody, my job is to provide real and positive leadership - that's what I am trying to do.

"And I think in these engagements with Queen Elizabeth, and this is the third, I always see these as an opportunity to reach out, to stretch out the hand of friendship to the unionist community here in the north.

"And I think from the contributions made by Queen Elizabeth it's quite clear indeed - her visit to Dublin, meeting me in Belfast two years ago, the visit to Windsor palace and again today, that she is someone who absolutely and passionately supports the peace process and supports big acts of reconciliation."

Before meeting Mr McGuinness, the Queen also had an audience with Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson.

The DUP leader, who earlier commended the fact that an improved security situation had allowed the Queen's visit to be well publicised in advance, noted the significance of her encounter with Mr McGuinness.

"I think the fact the deputy first minister is in sitting with an audience with the Queen at this moment perhaps demonstrates just how far we have come," he said.

While relations between Sinn Fein and the Royal family are seemingly thawing, the Queen's latest visit comes at a time when a deep freeze has set in at the heart of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

Political progress on big ticket issues has stalled, with Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson unable to find consensus on how to deal with the long standing disputes - such as those on parades, flags and the past - that continue to block the road toward a fully shared society.

As with a range of recent royal engagements involving Ireland, both north and south, the themes of reconciliation, regeneration and focusing on the future will be emphasised during what is the Queen and Duke's 21st visit to Northern Ireland.

They landed earlier this evening at George Best Belfast City Airport where they were met by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and former Olympic champion and now Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Dame Mary Peters.

While past visits have seen the Queen's itinerary closely guarded due to security fears, this week's engagements in the region have been publicised in advance.

From the airport the couple were driven to Hillsborough Castle, their official residence in the region. On arrival crowds of well-wishers in the Co Down town cheered and waved Union flags.

The Queen wore a Kingfisher blue coat and matching hat with a Shamrock brooch.

The castle has recently been taken over by Historic Royal Palaces with a view to increasing visitor access.

Michael Day, chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces, was among the official welcoming party that greeted the Royal couple.

As the Queen conducted private audiences with Mr Robinson, Mr McGuinness, Mr Day and Ms Villiers, the Duke met participants in his well-known awards scheme.

He talked with around 75 recipients of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards.

A packed day of engagements tomorrow includes a visit to the set of hit US fantasy drama Game Of Thrones in east Belfast.

The Queen and Duke will tour the Painthall studios in the city's regenerated docklands where much of the popular HBO series is filmed.

The Royal couple will also pop into the bustling St George's Market in Belfast city centre, be guests at a reception and lunch at Belfast City Hall and attend a garden party at Hillsborough Castle.

The castle is also playing host to experts and crew from the Antiques Roadshow this week and the Queen and Duke will stop by to visit them during their stay.

During her time across the Irish Sea, the Queen will also attend a Royal British Legion reception in Coleraine in Co Londonderry where she will launch a programme of activities commemorating the First World War.

The Queen and Duke last visited Northern Ireland in 2012 as part of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

That occasion proved highly symbolic in terms of the peace process as it marked the first occasion the she met Mr McGuinness.

Robinson: Open schedule a 'sign of changed times'

The public nature of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's latest visit to Northern Ireland reflects changing times in the region, Stormont's First Minister has said.

Ahead of the Royal couple's planned arrival in Belfast this evening, Peter Robinson expressed hope that the open nature of their schedule would allow lots of people the opportunity to greet them.

While past visits have seen the Queen's itinerary closely guarded due to security fears, this week's engagements in the region have been publicised in advance.

"It is a sign of changed times that the logistics of this visit could be announced before Her Majesty The Queen's arrival," said Mr Robinson, who described the visit as a "great honour" for Northern Ireland.

"There was a time when a Royal visit could not be reported in advance due to security concerns.

"I trust that lots of people will have the opportunity to greet Her Majesty The Queen over the next few days and express their gratitude for the wonderful leadership she has shown throughout her reign."

The Democratic Unionist leader and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will be at Hillsborough Castle this evening for a private audience with the Queen. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will also be in attendance.

The encounter will be the third time the Queen and former IRA commander Mr McGuinness have met.

Tomorrow, Mr McGuinness will accompany the Royal couple on a tour of the old Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast - a facility the politician was detained in himself during the Troubles.

Once a prison synonymous with the dark years of the conflict, its transformation into a popular visitor attraction is symbolic of Northern Ireland's journey away from conflict.

Other engagements include a visit to the set of hit US fantasy drama Game Of Thrones in east Belfast.

The Queen and Duke will tour the Painthall studios in the city's regenerated docklands where much of the popular HBO series is filmed.

Northern Ireland is fast developing an international reputation as a leading filming destination, with the powersharing administration at Stormont offering attractive incentives to producers to film in the region.

Game Of Thrones is estimated to be the biggest TV production in Europe and its first four seasons have been credited with bringing a direct economic benefit of £82 million to Northern Ireland, creating the equivalent of more than 900 full-time and 5,700 part-time jobs.

The Royal couple will also tour the bustling St George's Market in Belfast city centre, be guests at a reception and lunch at Belfast City Hall and attend a garden party at Hillsborough Castle.

The castle is also playing host to experts and crew from the Antiques Roadshow this week and the Queen and Duke will stop by to visit them during their stay.

During her time across the Irish Sea, Her Majesty will also attend a Royal British Legion reception in Coleraine in Co Londonderry where she will launch a programme of activities commemorating the First World War.

The Queen and Duke last visited Northern Ireland in 2012 as part of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

That occasion proved highly symbolic in terms of the peace process as it marked the first occasion the Queen met Mr McGuinness.

Heston Blumenthal jokes about fish and chips with Prince Phillip

Earlier on Monday, the Queen was hailed as the "inspiration" for Heathrow's new terminal today as she officially opened the £2.5 billion facility.

She joined the Duke of Edinburgh for a tour of the Terminal 2 building, which is named the Queen's Terminal in her honour, as more than 1,000 guests gathered for an opening ceremony.

The Queen was introduced to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and designer Cath Kidston, who have both set up outlets at T2.

Blumenthal, who has opened the Perfectionists' Cafe, said he was keen to let Philip know his favourite dish was on the menu after being questioned why he was not at his three Michelin-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck.

"He's a real foodie and a very good cook," Blumenthal said.

"He said, 'why are you not back in Bray?'. I told him, 'we've got your favourite, fish and chips, on the menu here'.

"The Queen has a really good sense of humour. She said, 'you've got a restaurant here?'. I told her we had liquid nitrogen ice cream, which she has come across before."

Speaking about the new terminal, Kidston said: "It's the window to the world. We have so many international customers, particulary in the Far East.

"The Queen is just a beacon of professionalism, both her and Prince Philip, what they offer us.

"I'm very proud to be representing Heathrow businesses here today."

Heathrow managers decided to open T2 in stages earlier this month to avoid any repeat of the disastrous opening day of Terminal 5 in March 2008.

Airlines will move into the new terminal in phases over the next six months and, when fully occupied, it will have 332 daily flights to 54 destinations.

More than 1,000 people who work at the terminal or who were involved in building the facility were invited to the official opening ceremony.

Addressing the guests, Heathrow development director John Holland-Kaye said: "Our ambition to play our part to help Britain remain a global economic powerhouse by connecting all of Britain to global growth, that sense of duty is one for which we take inspiration from one of our most frequent flyers, Her Majesty the Queen."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "This prestigious event marks the successful completion of one of the UK's largest construction projects.

"The new terminal is a perfect example of cutting-edge technology and design that can combine to make the best use of capacity, to improve the passengers' journey and experience, to boost the carbon efficiency by 40% over the previous building, and to produce stunning architecture that further reinforces Heathrow's reputation as a world class airport."

T2 was first opened by the Queen in 1955 as the airport's first passenger terminal. During their tour of the new building, the royal couple were introduced to sculptor Richard Wilson, whose Slipstream art installation is in the forecourt of T2.

After unveiling a commemorative plaque, the Queen and Duke boarded a flight to Northern Ireland.

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