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Why Martin's handshake will not cause awe in the US

As behind-the-scenes efforts are made to boost the prospects of a handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness next week, it's truly remarkable that such ground-breaking ceremonial niceties are being envisioned just 15 years on from the IRA's final ceasefire.

And the potential newest chapter in better Anglo-Irish relations is all the more stunning considering that it took 104 years from the last bloodletting between Britain and America for a US president and a British King to officially meet.

This week marks the 200th anniversary of America's last declaration of war against Britain, which kick-started the War of 1812. Decades after America won its independence, the two nations were at loggerheads. At issue were Britain's naval blockade of France (with whom it was at war), its impressments of US sailors into the Royal Navy against their will, and its backing of Native American tribes near the Canadian border who violently opposed America's expansion efforts.

After two years, and episodes like the burning of the White House by British troops and the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, it ended in a stalemate in December 1814.

The remainder of the 1800s saw the two countries regularly at daggers drawn. It really wasn't until World War I that America and Britain began to forge strong ties.

In fact it was in the immediate aftermath of the Great War that President Woodrow Wilson became the first American head of state to pay an official visit to a British monarch.

Wilson's Buckingham Palace sojourn appeared almost an afterthought at the time. When the Versailles Conference was postponed until January 1919, he decided to travel to London. While there, he dropped by Buckingham Palace for the historic chat with George V and Queen Mary.

Equating McGuinness's prospective face time with the Queen and Wilson's Buckingham Palace jaunt may be comparing apples to oranges, to some extent.

But there is no denying a meeting between a reputed former top commander of the IRA and the head of both the British state and its armed forces would constitute a major historical milestone.

If it happens, such a meeting will doubtlessly make the international news wires and, in America, be reported on by the likes of CNN and Fox News. The images most people will see in living rooms and bars will likely be brief. Centuries of fraught and violent relations between the two islands will be reduced to easily digestible sound bites.

As such, if a handshake occurs, while its magnitude may shake the earth at home most Americans likely won't be over awed. They'll probably view it as just a reasonable interaction in a modern era in which past animosities have been reportedly been put aside.

And the fact most Americans will register such a ground-breaking event as almost commonplace in current day Anglo-Irish relations is true testament to how far the peace process has travelled.