Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has revealed details of his conversation with Queen Elizabeth when the pair met for the first time last week.
Mr McGuinness said he acknowledged that the Queen had lost loved ones during the Troubles - a reference to the death of Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s close relative, who was blown up by the IRA while on holiday near Sligo in 1979.
It is the first time that Mr McGuinness revealed details of the conversation he had with the 86 year-old monarch since the historic meeting in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre last Wednesday.
While he did not divulge the exact details of the Queen’s response, explaining that to do so would not be “proper,” he said the Queen was “very gracious.”
He explained that he addressed his remarks to both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
“I said to them that I recognised that they too had lost a loved one,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said that it was important to address the past during the meeting. “I did not shy away from the issue because I think these are things that we need to face up to,” he explained.
The Queen, in keeping with royal protocol, has not publicly discussed any details of her meeting with Mr McGuinness.
The Deputy First Minister made the remarks during an RTE television interview with presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.
During the interview he discussed the international response to his meeting with Queen Elizabeth, which has been hailed as a historic gesture of reconciliation by many commentators.
Mr McGuinness also dismissed suggestions that the IRA is preparing to issue a general apology to relatives of all those it killed during the Troubles, both civilian and military.
The claimed was made in a leading southern newspaper at the weekend.
However, Mr McGuinness said such a move was highly unlikely as the IRA no longer exists. “I don’t know where they’re getting that from because the IRA have gone. I don’t know who’s going to do it,” he said. The Sinn Féin leader insisted that the IRA had “left the stage” and therefore would not be issuing any statements.
He added that the speculation may have arisen because of a process of talks, spearheaded by Sinn Féin chairperson Declan Kearney, with leading protestant clergymen.