27/06/2012 09:09 BST | Updated 27/06/2012 09:27 BST

The Queen-Martin McGuinness Handshake: A Brave Step Forward Or A Pointless Stunt?

The historic handshake between The Queen and former IRA-commander Martin McGuinness has been met with a huge range of reactions from politicians, religious leaders and commentators.

Some saw it as a brave step forward, others said it was a pointless stunt.

The Rev Dr Peter Mullen, a priest of the Church of England, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said: “Of all the malicious, cynical gimmicks perpetrated by Cameron’s Government of presentation and PR – all appearance and no reality – could there be anything worse than making the Queen shake hands with Martin McGuinness?”

He described McGuinness as “a newly invented political opportunist long associated with an organisation that went in for the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children”.

The New York Times disagreed.

Writers Douglas Dalby and Alan Cowell described the handshake as “a moment of heady symbolism that would once have seemed unthinkable” and “a remarkable sign of reconciliation for both figures”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson was equally upbeat.

He said: “This will move Northern Ireland on to a whole new plane. After all the trauma of Northern Ireland, everyone is looking forward.

"It is about a shared future, not a shared-out future."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman issued a fairly bland response about the handshake to The Daily Telegraph.

He said: "Clearly, there was a visit by Her Majesty to the Republic of Ireland last year. That has taken relations between the two countries to a new level.

"We think it is right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community."

Former Labour Party spin doctor Alastair Campbell, meanwhile, tweeted: “Sign of how far we have come that The Queen is to meet Martin McGuinness.”

The official Belfast Telegraph Twitter account carried a message describing the handshake as “bridging a gulf that spanned centuries”.

Comedian Frankie Boyle, in typically blunt style, remarked on Twitter: “Hats off to Martin McGuinness, I always find it difficult to make smalltalk with old folk, especially when I've blown up their cousin.”

Martin McGuinness himself described the meeting as "very nice".

See the gallery below for more Twitter reaction.