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A historic handshake, a historic image in Northern Ireland's peace process

Paul Faith / Pool via Reuters

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast on June 27, 2012.

The picture above may not look all that special, but it captures a historic moment in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Since it was announced last week that Queen Elizabeth II would meet Martin McGuinness, formerly a senior commander in the IRA, there had been intense speculation about how the encounter would play out — and how it would be recorded.

'Never thought I'd see this day': Reflecting on Queen's historic meeting with ex-IRA commander

It was only on Wednesday morning that Buckingham Palace confirmed the meeting — or at least a part of it — would be filmed. Cameras were not present for the initial encounter between the Queen and McGuinness, who is now Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, but a small number of media representatives were allowed to witness their farewells. 

Hands of history: Gestures of the Northern Ireland peace process

Even then, the handshake was not permitted to be broadcast live. Rolling news channels in the U.K. were forced to fill the image vacuum with endlessly-looped footage of the Queen looking at an art exhibit, as their correspondents attempted to describe a scene they had not yet been able to see. Finally, after an interminable delay, a handful of still images and 23 seconds of video were released to the world.

Paul Faith / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, second left, and the Duke of Edinburgh watch as the Queen shakes hands with Martin McGuinness.

Peter Muhly / AFP - Getty Images

Armed police block a road leading to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast during the Queen's visit.