ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland — Queen Elizabeth II prayed together Tuesday with Catholic and Protestant leaders from across Northern Ireland as this long-divided land demonstrated its rising faith in a shared future — and braced for a peacemaking milestone a quarter-century in the making.
The British monarch visited the lakeside town of Enniskillen, scene of one of the Irish Republican Army’s most shocking atrocities, for events symbolizing how far Northern Ireland has come from its darkest days of bloodshed. On Wednesday she’s expected to meet and shake hands with Martin McGuinness, former commander of the dominant Provisional IRA faction, in what many see as the symbolic conclusion to a four-decade conflict.
Their first-ever contact, long avoided by McGuinness’ Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, follows the Provisional IRA’s killing of some 1,775 people since 1970.
Yet the political difficulties that McGuinness faces are writ large on the Northern Ireland landscape. Catholics and Protestants alike are ribbing him, if not to his face, as ‘‘Sir Martin of Londonderry’’ — a tongue-in-cheek reference to his home city, because virtually all Irish nationalists reject that British name and use its native Irish name of Derry.