Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’ decision to meet Queen Elizabeth will start a process of community healing, a prominent Presbyterian clergyman has said.
Dr David Latimer from First Derry Presbyterian Church was speaking after Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced that Mr McGuinness will meet the Queen next Wednesday at a Co-operation Ireland event in Belfast.
It will be the first meeting between a prominent republican leader and a British monarch.
Mr Adams described the decision as “the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reasons.”
Dr Latimer, a close friend of Mr McGuinness, praised the Deputy First Minister for making the move.
“I sent Martin a text which read, ‘Martin, you have seen the bright gaze and you know the risk is worth the reward.’ Of course this come with risks but if we don’t take risks we will not move forward.
“When I look at the Queen I see someone who has been personally affected by the Troubles. When she meets Martin that will allow people to start to consider what they can to bring about change.
“When I see Martin being willing to meet and greet Her Majesty I see his courageous leadership. It is the mark of the man as a peace maker,”
The clergyman also said the historic meeting will be an inspiration to others.
“I think it will move beyond the handshake. The hurting people in my community will know that we are moving forward and that there is an opportunity to establish something better for our children.
“I think what Martin and the Queen will do next week will send out ripples that will progress over the coming weeks and months that will encourage more and more people to adjust what they are doing and work together to deliver a more stable Northern Ireland for everyone.
“It is up to us to follow their lead and make the changes in our own hearts and minds,” Dr Latimer said.
The decision has also been welcomed by Derry Diocesan spokesperson, Fr Michael Canny.