On a visit to Northern Ireland, the Queen of England shook hands with former Irish Republican Army commander and current deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness. The Queen wore a green dress and a large smile, while Mr. McGuinness, also smiling, sported a green tie. The resistance movement by the IRA has been conducted largely through terrorist bombings over the past four decades, including an attack that killed the Queen’s cousin in 1979. Speculation swirled—that’s what speculation does in the news—about the meaning of the handshake, whether the gesture was mere symbolism (slated to evanesce) or instead signaled genuine détente between the two previously intractable sides. A cease-fire has been in place since 1997, yet The Troubles, as the long conflict is known, still flares up and divides the Irish citizenry.
When another prominent Irish official spoke to “acknowledge the suffering of all those who have been victims of terrorist violence,” he was careful to note that “we’re also looking forward to the future.” Independence is one critical matter in The Troubles, while another is religion and the bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants. For every witness who finds quaint the meager differences (practically speaking) between these religions, in light of rampant global Islamist radicalism, it was nevertheless a reconciliatory moment any world watcher would be delighted to see repeated the world over, in squares from Tiananmen to Tahrir.