The Queen's Visit
Friday, May 20, 2011
I have to admit that when I first heard that Queen Elizabeth was visiting our country I wasn't really that bothered one way or another. I was a bit more interested in the US Presidential visit which follows in a few days time, given the unexpected enjoyment and boost we recieved when the charismatic Bill Clinton visited our shores some years ago.
You see us Irish are a funny nation. We can be a nation of begrudgers, at times, and we don't really like visting heads of state coming here to tell us how we should run our country. That's perhaps the reason why Mr Jazzy showed absolutely no interest in the Queen's Visit. That and his distinct dislike for anything that could be considered to be tugging the forelock.
So I wasn't too bothered until she arrived here and then I slowly became more interested with each passing day.
I was chuffed for a certain little Panto dancer of mine who presented the Queen with a bouquet of flowers on her arrival! Well done R...what a memory to have in later life.
This was a huge, historic visit fraught with potential disasters and multiple faux-pas. Some Irish would never acknowledge the sovreignity of the Queen and indeed there were numerous protests around our capital city. I say 'around' beacause due to intense Garda presence they couldn't get any closer. More about that later.
There is a lot of history between our two nations and most of it not good. Although it is almost 100 years since we declared our Independance it is not that long ago since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. WiiBoy was curious about this and thought that this was not a good time for the Queen to visit. He's not alone in this thought.
They still own some of our country mum, he said.
Yes, yes they do said I
Well, they should give it back first. he replied, with all the authority and innocence of an 11 year old boy!
I tried to explain that some English people live there too.They've lived there for generations and consider Northern Ireland to be part of the UK. We can't just throw them out now, can we? Besides, we can't afford them right now, I thought silently to myself! He thought about what I said but didn't reply . Food for thought no doubt. Whatever any generation feels about the English rule and oppression of the past we have to start the next generation off on a more inclusive footing, I believe. And besides, as Mr Jazzy says, Brian Cowen and his Fianna Fail government have done more to ruin this country over the last 20 years than the Brits ever did in 700. He has a point...
It was a difficult visit for some Irish people to accept on our shores but I believe it was also a difficult one for the Queen herself. She is an 85 year old lady whom, with her 90 year old husband, had a punishing 4 day schedule which included some astonishing visits to some nationalist memorial sites.
I watched with avid interest as the Queen of England set foot in Dublin's sacrosanct Garden of Remembrance , a garden that commerates Irish people who have died over the centuries fighting the British for the freedom and Independance we enjoy today. An incredible sight to see her there, respectfully laying a wreath in their memory. A huge, significant moment for which I personally admire her.
She also visited the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge where both she and our President lay wreaths in memory of 50,000 Irish men who had died fighting for the Crown in the First World War.
She visited Croke Park, our hallowed national sports grounds steeped in history. This is the site of the original Bloody Sunday, where 14 civilians were shot dead by British forces in 1920. It took incredible strength of spirit and courage on all sides for this truly historic visit to take place. I have great admiration for all involved and it shows how far both our countries have moved on.
At this stage I was biting at the bit to hear The Queen's Speech. What would she say? Would she be pompous and go around the houses without saying anything of importance? As it happens I missed it but I have seen it on news sites and read a transcript. She had me (and most of the nation) in the palm of her hands with her first 5 words.... in perfectly pronounced Gaeilge. A Uactharain, agus a chairde.... (President and friends) she said. Wow, our President was overheard saying at the first 2 words then Wow again at the last. It was a warm, meaningful and carefully worded speech which was warmly received.
As I've said earlier this visit was not warmly received by all and there were a number of protests in Dublin, preceedeed by numerous bomb alerts. Everyone has the right to protest and and to their opinions. I uphold those rights but I abhor those who protest simply to cause trouble. They are no less than thugs in my opinion and they do not represent me or most of this nation. Some threw firecrackers and barriers at the Gardai. The amoeba brain-celled amongst them were even wearing the jersey of the UK FOOTBALL TEAM they support as they protested against a visit by the English Monarchy! The irony of the situation totally bypassing them
Unfortunately, while we were treated to such amazing images of the visits I describe above some countries were shown scenes of angry protesters. I am annoyed about that and I do hope that the international media gave a fair representation of this hugely successful visit and took into account that the protestors were in the minority.
This visit cost this financially broke and struggling nation of ours a fortune and I'd hate to think that the actions of the relative few would hinder the potential economic rewards for us all. There are some who believe this visit shouldn't have happened because of the cost. I like to think it was worth it as it puts us firmly and positively on the World's Stage at a crucial time for us economically.
Ireland has never looked better in the amazing images I witnessed this week. I only hope that those of you living outside Ireland saw at least some of them.
I hope you saw some of what I describe above.
I hope you saw the amazingly warm, standing ovation she received after the concert at The National Conference Centre last night. It was beaming smiles all round! She seemed to thoroughly enjoy the occasion and the warm, affectionate response that she received.
I hope you saw the amazing and very natural reception she recieved from the people of Cork today when she had her one and only impromtu walk-about amongst the people who were allowed to gather to see her.
Well done to all involved in making this visit such a success...you have done your country a great service. In particular I comment the Gardai and the Defence Forces. You did a fantastic job.
Yes, Ireland did indeed look very well this week and I hope it translates in economic terms. We have amazing sights and are steeped in history. I'm so impressed I'm going to take WiiBoy on a tour of Dublin this forthcoming summer holidays ... and I live here!
It was an incredible week for Ireland which started with Jedward's amazing performance in last Saturday's Eurovision (we were robbed, I tell ya, robbed!), followed by The Queen's Visit and will end with the State Funeral of a lovely statesman and ex-senior politician Garret Fitzgerald ,who poignantly passed away the morning after the Queen gave her speech, and another state visit by the US President Barack Obama on Monday. He will no doubt also receive a huge Ceid Mile Failte when he arrives.