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'I'm still alive' jokes Queen Elizabeth on Northern Ireland visit

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 11:19

[LONDON] "I'm still alive," quipped the British monarch Queen Elizabeth on Monday when asked about her health, in her first round of public engagements since Britain voted to leave the European Union.

The dry remark followed a dramatic few days for Britain that have seen the prime minister resign, the pound hit a 30-year-low, and England defeated by Iceland in a shock football rout.

Next came Queen Elizabeth's two-day trip to Northern Ireland, where she met with leaders including Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army paramilitary who now serves as deputy first minister of the British-ruled province.

"Hello, are you well?" Mr McGuinness asked as he extended his hand in greeting to the monarch in a televised meeting.

"I'm still alive anyway. Ha," Queen Elizabeth laughed, shaking his hand.

"We've been quite busy. There's been quite a lot going on."

It wasn't clear whether her comments were a reference to political events in Britain - or possibly her two recent birthday celebrations.

The queen, who turned 90 this year, added that she had been busy celebrating "two birthdays". The monarch's birthday is celebrated twice under British tradition.

Queen Elizabeth has not issued a statement on Britain's vote to leave the EU, a shock result that has strained the ties of her United Kingdom.

Voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland backed remaining in the bloc, but support for an exit in England and Wales carried the victory for "Brexit" by 52 per cent.

That means a referendum on Scottish independence is "on the table" according to the first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who hopes to keep Scotland in the EU.

Mr McGuinness' Sinn Fein party, which wants Northern Ireland to leave the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland, quickly called for a vote on Irish unity following the Brexit vote.

After an audience behind closed doors with the queen, Mr McGuinness refused to comment on whether they had discussed the referendum.

"We discussed many things, none of which I will tell you," Mr McGuinness said.

AFP