Queen’s Visit Essentials...
Queen Elizabeth bows her head before the memorial to those who died fighting her grandfather’s armed forces
Gordon Rayner gives an impassioned view of the historical context to the fact that Queen Elizabeth was the first British Monarch to set foot in the Republic of Ireland: "It was a moment that would have been impossible a generation ago, but which had become an imperative in laying to rest the two countries’ troubled past following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998…The unprecedented security measures surrounding her four-day state visit meant that no members of the public were able to witness the moment, but millions were watching on television as Ireland’s troubled relationship with the Royal family was finally banished… Republican terrorists had tried, predictably enough, to hijack the visit by planting a bomb on a bus, hours earlier, but nothing was going to allow a vanishingly small minority to thwart the will of the Irish people and their president, Mary McAleese. In the months since the visit was first announced, Irish politicians have promised that the Queen would receive a “warm welcome” when she followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, George V, who made the last state visit to Ireland by a British monarch in 1911… To the disappointment of thousands of Dubliners who had turned out to cheer and clap the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, police had set up exclusion zones extending hundreds of yards from each of the sites the royal party visited.As well as the 8,000 police and soldiers on the streets, helicopters hovered overhead, police spotters stood on rooftops and church spires, and plain-clothed detectives were joined by 120 armed officers from the Metropolitan Police to make sure no one could get through the ring of steel. Even so, a small but vocal minority of republican demonstrators made sure the Queen was unable to ignore them as she carried out the most controversial engagement of the day, and arguably of her entire tour, at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance. As she lay a wreath of laurel leaves, and bowed her head at a memorial “to those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom”, a minute’s silence was repeatedly broken by chants, jeers and whistles from protesters venting their hatred 300 yards away. A military band briefly drowned them out as they played God Save the Queen... The Queen arrived on the anniversary of a series of car bombings in Ireland in 1974 which killed 34 people in the deadliest single day of the Troubles. As she visited Aras an Uachtarain, the official residence of the president, families of the victims were holding a service of remembrance in Talbot Street, The royal motorcade also passed the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, the seat of the Easter Rising in 1916. Today the Queen will visit Croke Park stadium, where 14 people were shot by British security forces in 1920."
Ed West has a very good piece on why the Queen’s visit will be a chance for us to remember all the Irishmen who died for Ireland’s autonomy.
William Oddie’s article that ‘Very few Brits understand how appalling our record in Ireland really is’, is intensely moving: ‘Only a monarch, surely, could so embody the national identity of her people as to make the symbolism of that simple gesture, of bowing her head before the memorial to those who died fighting her grandfather’s armed forces, so irresistible. Earlier in the day, as she inspected the guard of honour at Arus an Uachtarain, the presidential residence in Phoenix Park (how many times have I driven past it?) I found that tears had come to my eyes; when the tiny Irish airforce did a flypast, I was entirely undone.’
William Oddie’s discovery of Irish history, how he fell in love with Éire ‘hook, line and sinker’ and how this week, he dissolved in tears when the Queen inspected inspected the guard of honour at Arus an Uachtarain has been resounding in my thoughts constantly.