A citizen’s welcome to Her Majesty

Note: this article comments primarily on the wreath laying ceremony to take place in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin as part of the State Visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland, as this is the aspect that has been given little prominence in commentary to date.

As a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, I warmly welcome the visit of Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State of the United Kingdom, a dynamic cosmopolitan and multicultural state with whose people we enjoy warm and friendly relationships, whose vibrant and exciting capital London we love to visit. The Queen comes here in a different capacity to any of her predecessors who visited-she comes as an equal of any citizen in this state. As we are not her subjects, no bobbing or curtsying  is necessary or appropriate (note to Pat Kenny, whose radio show on RTE radio one today featured an extended piece on the precise etiquette of greeting royalty, including advice to the public on the appropriate table manners). See here for a note on the appropriate etiquette, including advice to those who are not subjects.

Queen Elizabeth IIThe hope is that the Queen and her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will enjoy a warm welcome and a very pleasant stay here. The regrettable aspects are that she will fly into a virtual cordon sanitaire, a country in virtual lockdown, with most of the citizenry kept out of her view, because of a security threat from dissident republican elements such as the Real IRA, which enjoy virtually no community support in the North. The hope must be that, in carrying out their legitimate and necessary duties to safeguard the visiting dignitaries, the Gardaí will avoid heavy handed tactics with members of the public who come to view the spectacle, or with protesters who have an entirely legitimate right in a democratic society to register peacefully their opposition to this visit. All citizens should be aware of their rights, some of which are outlined here

Garden of Remembrance, DublinHer Majesty will lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance near Parnell Square at the top of O’Connell Street. This park was formally opened in 1966, during the jubilee celebrations of the 1916 Easter rising, to commemorate all of those who fought in the struggle for Irish freedom which led to the foundation of the sovereign state in the 26 counties. The Queen will thus be acknowledging, on behalf of the United Kingdom, people like the poet, playwright, educationalist and revolutionary Patrick Pearse and the socialist and thinker James Connolly, as well as acknowledging the foundation of the State.

It is a singular pity that some media commentators on this visit could not resist the opportunity to denigrate those who took part in the struggle for independence or to caricature the entire independent history of the state as a tale of emigration, censorship, priest-domination, poverty and linguistic compulsion. It has failed to factor in the good with the bad, or to set the first faltering steps of the new state, or its early ethos, in any appropriate historical context.

Pearse, who proclaimed a republic outside the GPO on Easter Monday 1916, and was executed some weeks later in the stonebraker’s yard in Kilmainham Gaol, once wrote:

For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow’s teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God ; or was it a jest of Christ’s
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, `This man is a fool,’ and others have said, `He blasphemeth;’
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith

On the wall of the Garden of Remembrance is inscribed the following:

We Saw A Vision
In the darkness of despair we saw a vision,
We lit the light of hope,
And it was not extinguished,
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision,
We planted the tree of valour,
And it blossomed
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision,
We melted the snow of lethargy,
And the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river,
The vision became a reality,
Winter became summer,
Bondage became freedom,
And this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generation of freedom remember us,
The generation of the vision.

I salute the brave and visionary men who led the 1916 rising, those who fought and gave their lives for Irish independence, and remember with gratitude their sacrifice. I acknowledge the generosity of the Queen (and the British Government) in laying a wreath to the memory of these men on behalf of of her people, in so doing, acknowledging that they were inspired by the highest ideals, even if ones she would not share. It is very much to be hoped that unionists and dissenters will finally be moved to acknowledge that the men of 1916 were sincerely motivated, if their monarch can do so. Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen called in May of last year for Unionists to acknowledge the Easter Rising of 1916, in reciprocation for nationalists acknowledging the Battle of the Somme  and the sacrifices of the First World War– see here for a report on this call, which has to date fallen on deaf ears.

I also salute those other Irish who fought and died for different ideals, and in the regiments of other armies. The Queen will also, quite rightly, lay a wreath to the memory of these men at the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge.

It seems that quite a significant speech will be made by the Queen at the state dinner in honour in Dublin Castle on Wednesday evening (this will be broadcast live on RTE 1 television). The presence of British Prime Minister David Cameron here is also a significant portent. Perhaps some progress will be made on the British side in releasing the files on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the atrocity which resulted in the greatest loss of life on a single day during the period of the Northern Ireland troubles.

May the State visit pass safely and well, and a new and hopeful epoch commence in relationships between these islands.

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6 thoughts on “A citizen’s welcome to Her Majesty

  1. But she still rule over six of our counties. The men and women who aspired freedom in 1916 aspired freedom for all of Ireland. When the English separated six counties from the rest of this country and kept them, they did so to placate a Unionist community who were not in a majority. So tell us that the separation of the six counties was an illeagle act as the majority of Irish people didn’t want this!
    How can we welcome this head of state to our country when she rules over a country that holds on to part of our country when the majority of Irish peole never agreed to it in the first place!
    ‘The North’, as it’s referred to by ‘southerners’, suffered enormously as a result of this, and the Catholic and Nationalist community there suffered terrible circumstances because of this illeagle separation.
    I don’t welcome her, I think she should come back when all of Ireland is free from her Governments grip, as was the aspiration of the men and women of 1916, and beyond.

    • Hi Tony, thanks to the comment. I do accept that northern nationalists have a different perspective on this-there are really three different perspectives on the island: the southern perspective, the northern nationalist perspective and the unionist perspective. I hope to blog a bit more about this, in the meantime all I can say is that it is important that holders of each of those perspectives respect the other. The Good Friday agreement seems to represent the best hope, in that, whatever the historical wrong and rights,it is not seriously sustainable to coerce the North into a united Ireland unless a local majority there wish to form part of one. Yes, I understand the argument that that shouldn’t have been done to northern nationalists in 1922, but we live in the here and now, not then.

      The reality is that two separate statesand even communities have grown up and evolved over the past 90 years on the island, and even southern nationalism and northern nationalism have to some extent grown apart from each other. Many Southerners perceive far more in common in many respects between northern nationalists and northern unionists, than people in either either of those communities would probably accept- apart from the major constitutional issue. In many ways, it seems to me that there is a much greater sense of civic pride in the North than there is down here- something both sides of the community in Northern Ireland share. The whole issue is too involved to go into right here, right now, however. Aonghus

  2. Alt stuama, a Aonghuis.

    Maidir leis na sé contae, is iomaí leagan de dleathach atá ann; ach faoi láthair sé Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta an dlí. Mar sin, faoi láthair, tá muintir na 26 contae ag aontú ina mhóraimh mhór leis an reacht reatha.

    Ach, dar ndóigh, beidh lucht léamh dubh agus bán ar an stair liath riamh linn.

    • this is a shock to me to invite the queen of england to the republic of ireland is madness the british army shot like dogs at croke park our gaelic players they shot our leaders one in a wheelchair in the 1916 rebellion in dublin bloody sunday black armbands were worn all over ireland in respect to our comrades in the north leave us to our own celebrations no unionists bigots no english there is a website called nobody likes the english you should look at it are you sure your irish

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