Well for the first time in the history of the Independent Irish State a reigning British monarch has made an official visit to the green Isle. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, visited Ireland for four days (they are leaving today) and there was an enormous build-up around the event.
There were threats from dissident Republicans (a small minority) who were opposed to the visit of the monarch. There was also a lot of debating if the Queen needs to apologise for any atrocities been made against the Irish by their British neighbours…. meaning the Croke Park Bloody Sunday some 91 years ago when 14 innocent Irish people were killed by the British forces. This apparently was a reprisal after Irish Nationalists (IRA) killed 14 members (undercover agents) of the British Armed Forces the night before. The Queen wasn’t even born when this happened!
I think she acknowledged the violence that happened in her actions: by laying down a wreath in honour of those Irish people who died for Irish independence at the Garden of Remembrance. At the State Banquet held in her honour she said something to the effect that England and Ireland need to work together to make ‘us stronger’. She even started her speech with a sentence in Irish which shows her commitment (at the age of 85) to make it work! She also visited the Irish National War Memorial in remembrance of the Irish soldiers who died during the First World War while fighting shoulder to shoulder with British forces against the enemy.
I have been living in Ireland for more than ten years now and I struggle to understand why there is still this bitterness against the English; between the Irish and the English? This is the closest neighbour, not only in distance, but also culturally. The same language is spoken, they tell and laugh at the same jokes and follow many of the same sports. And of course there is the minor point about the weather being very similar.
I honestly feel people need to yes acknowledge the past and respect it, but PLEASE move on, stop dwelling on it. I suppose for many people her visit shows how far relations between Britain and Ireland have come. I mean isn’t that about time? Isn’t it time the past needs to be put behind and we need to move on. And I am not saying this because I am an outsider? In my home country (South Africa) enormous changes happened when Nelson Mandela was freed in 1990 and the ANC unbanned. As journalist I reported on the famous talks between the different political parties to form a new government, to see what route the country should take. I saw how important it was for everyone to make peace with the past and move on. You need to close that door before you can move on. And that was what was done with different commissions (Truth and Reconciliation for one) and the building of certain monuments and museums. I suppose in the end you need to find it in your own heart to move on.
I am sure the old lady and her prince had a fabulous time. She visited the Guinness Storehouse where they were able to taste the famous Irish black stuff (although they didn’t taste it). Then very close to her heart are horses and she visited the National Stud in Kildare as well as other studs to have a look at those beauties (horses). She also saw the amazing Rock of Cashel (I have been there on numerous occasions!) and Cork’s English Market!
So I am very glad things went smoothly for them. Maybe she didn’t really get to experience the real Irish friendliness because of the intense security (8000 gardai, 2000 soldiers and 150 armed British police were on duty) so best would be is she comes incognito next time! Apparently prince Philip did just that in the 1940’s when he was on board a British Royal Navy vessel and sneaked across the Northern Ireland border for a visit to Donegal!