Statement by President Michael D Higgins following Co-operation Ireland event at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, when Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II shook hands
In my role as co-patron of Cooperation Ireland, I was pleased to participate in this morning's event organised by that organisation to recognise and celebrate the transformational strength of art and culture throughout the island of Ireland.
The location for this event, the new Lyric Theatre, is a wonderful embodiment of the positive transformation that has occurred in Northern Ireland over recent years.
I was very happy to meet representatives of the arts and culture community, who are making such a great contribution to the new climate of hope and positivity on the island.
Sabina and I were delighted to have the opportunity for a brief but warm meeting with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and his Royal Highness, Prince Philip.
We recalled the successful state visit to Ireland last year and its positive impact on relations between Ireland and Britain. I conveyed to Her Majesty my wish, during my term in office, to avail of all appropriate opportunities to build on that encouraging template of enhanced British-Irish relationships.
I greatly welcome the fact that this morning's event was an inclusive occasion involving the participation of the first and deputy first ministers.
It was appropriate that the holders of this joint-office were present, as they were on the occasion of my inauguration as president of Ireland.
The exchange of greetings and courtesies that took place this morning marks another important step on the journey to reconciliation on this island.
I believe this will be helpful in the continued realisation of the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement and in improving relationships between all communities who share this island.