First-ever handshake for Paisley and Ahern

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Democratic Unionist party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley and Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern have today shaken hands in public for the first time.

The two men met at Farmleigh in Dublin for what the taoiseach's office described as an "informal exchange of views".

Last week Rev Paisley and his Sinn Fein counterpart Gerry Adams consented to a power-sharing agreement in the Northern Ireland assembly on May 8th.

Today's meeting between the future first minister at Stormont and Mr Ahern is further evidence of thawing relations across the island

Upon arrival at Farmleigh, Rev Paisley slapped the taoiseach on the back before they firmly shook hands.

Speaking after their talks, which Mr Ahern had previously described as a signal of "emerging positive political relationships on this island", the Irish premier said: "We must do out best to put behind us the terrible wounds of our past and work together to build a new relationship between our two traditions."

And Rev Paisley added: "Some say hedges make the best neighbours but that is not the case.

"I don't believe we should plant a hedge between our two countries."

The two men privately shook hands for the first time when Mr Ahern presented Rev Paisley with a 50th wedding anniversary present in St Andrews, Scotland, last October.

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