Queen's tribute raises hope for reconciliation

Mon, 23 May 2011 15:28 in News Digest
Dialogue Society News Digest

Queen Elizabeth II marked a huge moment in British-Irish history on Wednesday 18 May when she stepped onto Irish soil, the first visit to Ireland by a reigning British Monarch since George V in 1911. The Queen’s four day visit, welcomed by the Irish President Mary McAlkeese was seen as a day which would go down in history as a day of reconciliation between the two nations.

Press Perspectives

The Guardian – Tuesday 17 May 2011

A Royal Visit like 1,000 others. But this is Ireland, there’s history there

There has never been a circumstance like this before with such resonance in history, which is why it has taken over 90 years for a state visit to take place since Irish Independence. Whilst the Queen’s trip to Dublin included the expected resonances, prevalent of all was a wreath laying at the Garden of Remembrance, commemorating generations of Irish men and women who died fighting for independence. That moment of commemorative silence by the Queen was believed by many to be hugely important to the Irish Government.

The Times – Wednesday 18 May 2011

The Queen bows to Ireland’s fallen, a gesture laden with weight of history

Reconciliation, security and protest, were the three big themes for the Queen’s visit to Ireland. This was a British sovereign honouring those who died fighting the British Empire. As the Queen bowed her head at the Garden of Rememberence, all symbols of timeworn signs of morning were present: Last post, a minute’s silence, a flag at half mast and national leaders paying their respects. Whilst some Republicans were overtly displaying their disapproval of the state visit by making noise on rooftops, to most, the Queen’s moment of silent reflection gestured a step towards reconciliation.

The hostile history between the two nations meant that the commorative day was never going to pass off peacefully. Whilst the Queen paid her respects, bricks, bottles, fireworks and cans were thrown by up to 300 activists gathered around areas local to the site. Black balloons were released by Sein Fein over Dublin to represent those killed by British forces. Aengus O Snodaigh a TD for Dublin South Central, said that Sinn Fein believes that many Irish citizen’s particularly victims of British rule will take offence to the Queen’s visit however, she said that, “Sinn Fein wants to have good relations with all our neighbours but that can only happen in an atmosphere of equality and mutual respect and with the reunification of our country.”

The Telegraph – Thursday 19th May 2011

London 2012 Olympics: torch relay to visit Ireland after the Queen's successful visit

In the wake of the Queen’s successful trip to the Republic of Ireland, Government officials are working with the London 2012 Olympic Games organisers to finalise plans for the Olympic torch relay to go beyond the UK borders and visit Dublin also.

The intention is very clear to go to Ireland and we are working through the details at the moment and of course this would be a small part in the bigger engagement that is going on with southern Ireland," the Minister for Sport and Olympics, Hugh Robertson said.

Sky News – Thursday 19 May 2011

Irish Press Praise Queens ‘Healing’ Visit

The state visit to Ireland has encouraged optimistic reactions from the Irish press. The itinary of the Queen’s visit including the Irish War Memorial and Croke Park provoked much talk and extensive praise.

Kathy Sheridan, journalist at the Irish Times said that the day’s activities were filled with “more than a little fun.” The papers also wrote approvingly of the Queen’s speech despite there being no apology yet strong references to painful personal hurts undoubtedly cut both ways. “The line about 'being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it' was one to nurture,” said the Irish Times journalist.

Chris Donnelly, reporter at The Belfast Telegraph said that a "powerful message" had been shared by the Queen's state visit, which recognised the sacrifices made by Irish republicans in pursuit of the cause of Irish freedom.

Key Players

Politicians from across the board said that the historic trip indicated a beginning of a new era in Anglo-Irish relations.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that the speech made by the Queen in Dublin this week had struck a chord with many people.

"What she said about things that could have been done differently or not been done at all, I think will have spoken volumes to people in Ireland.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the speeches made by the Queen and President Mary McAleese were thought provoking.

Moving Forward

Although some Republicans remain cynical of the Queen’s state trip, on the whole most have received the state trip as a highly significant step to reunite the historically torn nations. The fact that the Queen commenced her speech in Irish has been perceived by some as a positive sign underlining the strength of her friendship with the people of Ireland. People now live in hope that this important move is a symbolic gesture that will develop into a peaceful relationship between people of both islands.