It's usually pretty hard to get excited about Queen Elizabeth II visiting other countries. The four-day visit she began today, however, is different. Ireland shares a language, a border and an awful lot of history with the UK, yet this was the first visit by a British monarch in more than 100 years, and the first since Ireland became an independent nation-state in 1922. It can only happen at all because of the peace process which culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.  The Queen's visit has put a seal on the new chapter that it opened, in a surprisingly beautiful and moving gesture. 

It came when she lay a wreath at the statue of the children of Lir in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance, dedicated to the memory of "all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom". It is a monument, in other words, to all those who fought against the Queen's ancestors, beginning with the 1798 Wolf Tone rebellion through to the 1921-22 Irish War of Independence.

Laying a wreath at the garden, which was opened by Eamon de Valera in 1966 on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Uprising, is standard protocol for state visitors to Ireland. But the decision not to excuse the Queen from doing so was a brilliant one.  There could have been no better symbol of peacemaking than the Queen, standing next to President Mary McAleese, standing in silent remembrance of those who died for Irish independence; to see her bow her head in tribute to the dead; and to hear 'God save the Queen' being played by an Irish army band in that place. It was a mark not just of respect but of the common humanity which transcends war and politics.

She began the visit wearing green in Phoenix Park, once the seat of the Crown in Ireland, where she planted a tree. As she rode in cavalcade through Dublin, the streets were entirely empty; a massive security operation, the largest and most expensive in Irish history, has kept people well clear of her following threats by hardline Republicans. (A bomb was discovered last night on a bus from the suburb of Maynooth. Dissident Republicans are thought to be responsible). Just over 10 per cent of Irish people opposed the Agreement, and are against this visit. They made their feelings known in small demonstrations well away from the Queen, with black balloons and posters that read, "Britain out of Ireland".

It is a shame that the TV pictures show empty streets, because most Irish people have welcomed the visit. Ireland, confident as a European country, has less need to define itself against Britain. The two nations remain deeply intertwined. What we saw today was how far relations between the two governments have strengthened and normalized -- to the point where they can take risks with their most sacred symbols for the sake of peace.

Comments

david power | 5/17/2011 - 7:16pm
Crystal ,

In a nutshell, yes.
It is a ghetto mentality that you can also see in the Church.The person may not give a damn about Christ but would lose the rag if you did not recognize they were catholic.
It is the same politics of identity that is everywhere.
In the north of Ireland the enemy is clearly marked out.Like in American Politics where you have democrats and Republicans and people are set on the hate mode for either one .In the North of Ireland it is like this,The Church covered it's ass by saying "killing them is not right" instead of going the whole hog and embracing the bloody heathens.   The scotch-Irish are not a "petty people" and more than half of US presidents hail from this stock.
There is nothing noble about the politics of either side of this debate .They are equally squalid.  
Ireland has young lungs waiting for fresh air.        
Crystal Watson | 5/17/2011 - 6:52pm
Thanks David.  I know I don't get all the complexities.  Part of my own family came from Ireland but by way of Scotland - Scotch-Irish.  So  people of English descent who live in Ireland don't think of themselves as Irish but as still English? 
david power | 5/17/2011 - 6:26pm
Crystal,

In the Republic

We have our independence. We have our own currency our own economy and our own governement.There is a part of the Island that has 50/50 in terms of those whose heritage is English and those whose heritage is Irish.This is Northern Ireland.
To impose Irish rule on them would be like imposing french heritage on all of the English who live in Quebec. For decades those of English heritage did not recoginize the existence of those of Irish heritage.The Irish answer was to not recognize those of English heritage.
It is a question of absolutism or co-existence?In the Holy Land I am against Israel because I believe the Palestinians have the right to exist and vice-versa.In Ireland it is the same.Independence basically means the same logic that was applied before the Easter rising but from the opposite side.We can't kill all of them so it is better to co-exist.      
Crystal Watson | 5/17/2011 - 6:13pm
I know I'm woefully undereducated on this issue, but why does England not let Ireland have its independence?
david power | 5/17/2011 - 6:13pm
I spent the weekend in Ireland for a funeral (why else would anyone go there?)  and had to listen to some of my relatives  give a sermon on why the queen should not be coming.Main reason?Money.We squandered billions on everything and anything and then we all become scots at the sight of a Royal visit. The amazing thing was that they all linked it to a moral cause and in a vague and distorted way to the Gospel. 
Forgiveness ??? 
  The English and the Irish have gotten on very well for many decades now and the Queen coming is in a way a throwback.It represents a particular England. A Scouser ,Geordie or Manc would be more in tune with the thoughts of an Irishman than those that  the monarchy represent. The Church has always played on the negative instincts of the Irish. How often have I heard Bishops and Priests play the nationalist card..
The Queen invited the Holy Father to England and he was given a great reception and it truly was a triumph of the English spirit.The miseryguts that abound in all places were shouted down by the joy of believers.The Queen is a challenge to the Irish.How much of the Gospel did we receive ?How much did we manage to keep?The Queen is about to give us our answer.     
John Barbieri | 5/17/2011 - 11:46am
Any act that promotes reconciliation between human beings and between nations is surely in keeping with G_D's love!

                                Thus, may I respectfully offer both:
                                   "Ireland Forever"
                                             and
                               "G_D save the Queen."