Northern Ireland

Man who helped bring about Queen and McGuinness handshake to become a CBE

Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, who has been made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to peace in the King’s Birthday Honours list (Liam McBurney/PA)
Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, who has been made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to peace in the King’s Birthday Honours list (Liam McBurney/PA) Peter Sheridan, chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, who has been made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to peace in the King’s Birthday Honours list (Liam McBurney/PA)

The head of a peace-building organisation who helped to bring about the historic handshake between the late Queen and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, is to be made a CBE.

Peter Sheridan, the chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, is being recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Mr Sheridan was previously made an OBE for services to community in his previous career as a high-ranking member of the PSNI.

Mr Sheridan told the PA news agency that he was humbled by the latest honour, which is for services to peace-building.

Royal visit to Northern Ireland – Day 2
Royal visit to Northern Ireland – Day 2 The late Queen shook hands with Martin McGuinness at an event organised by Co-operation Ireland in 2012 (Paul Faith/PA)

He said: “On a personal basis, I am obviously surprised and honoured that people think I’m worthy of an honour.

“But more important is that I am proud in terms of the work of Co-operation Ireland since 1979 and all of the people who have been engaged in it and the people that we work with.

“I think this is an acknowledgement of all the work that has gone on.”

Co-operation Ireland worked on the state visit by the late Queen to Dublin in 2011 and then organised the event at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast the following year, which saw her come face to face for the first time with senior Sinn Fein politician Mr McGuinness.

Mr Sheridan said he believed his honour reflected those events as well as the work Co-operation Ireland does at grassroots level.

He added: “The CBE was an absolute surprise, I had no idea it was coming, not an inkling.

“I had already received one award some years ago and I thought that’s my lot.”

“The letter came in a couple of weeks ago, that was the first I knew about it.”

Royal visit to Northern Ireland – Day 2
Royal visit to Northern Ireland – Day 2 The late Queen shakes hands with Peter Sheridan at the event in the Lyric Theatre in 2012 (Paul Faith/PA)

Speaking about his work at Co-operation Ireland, Mr Sheridan said: “It is sometimes too easy to have the cup half empty.

“When we look back at where we came from in my last career in policing, to where we are today, the changes have been immeasurable.

“Of course we haven’t got there yet, and there is a lot of work needs done around learning to live together in this place and share this place, but we are on the way.

“It has had its ups and downs but nowhere have I seen any sense of anybody going back to violence despite those challenges and I think that is tantamount to a lot of the work that Co-operation Ireland and other community and voluntary organisations and many politicians do.”