CHARLES GRAHAM - A handshake that gives hope to the world

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THERE are certain images that you never think you will see.

Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, Katie Price gaining a PhD, bailed-out bankers lending businesses money again...

All too far-fetched for reality, of course.

But then again who would have thought there would be a photo opportunity showing Her Majesty the Queen shaking hands with a man who, for many years, would dearly have loved to have killed her because she stood for everything that his political cause despised.

I for one thought I would never witness the day when Martin McGuinness, former quarter-master of the IRA and one-time sworn enemy of the British state and monarchy, was given the VIP treatment.

Indeed it was the IRA which murdered the Queen’s beloved cousin Lord Mountbatten in 1979.

Then again I didn’t expect to see him a couple of years ago laughing and back-slapping with the Rev Ian Paisley either.

And while there will be some folk appalled at the acceptance of a former terrorist as a dignitary, and die-hard republicans who feel that mainstream Sinn Fein has sold out in the quest for a united Ireland, I think this historic picture is rather wonderful.

It is a fantastic advert for reconcilliation, transmitting the most powerful message of peace, compromise, forgiveness and hope to other strife-torn parts of the world.

It is also a tribute to all those who helped bring such diametrically opposed people and views together, including ex-Prime Minister John Major and Tony Blair, Colin Parry whose son Tim was killed in the Warrington bomb, and Wigan’s own former MP Roger Stott who as a Shadow Northern Ireland Minister did much behind-the-scenes negotiation.