Coffee House

An historic moment

17 May 2011

There is something incredibly resonant about the images of the Queen arriving in the Republic of Ireland this afternoon. You have probably heard the facts by now — that she is the first
British monarch to do so for 100 years, and the first since Irish independence — but they are no less striking. Against a backdrop of terror threats and of Britain’s participation in the
country’s bailout, Queen Elizabeth II is making some kind of history today.

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It is also, as Ed West says in a thoughtful post over at the
Telegraph, a time for remembrance. He suggests that we remember the 300,000 Irishmen who fought in the Great War — and rightly so. But there is much more to commemorate, not least those who
have lost their lives in the bitter struggles and recriminations since. We shall have the thoughts of someone who was caught up in a Dublin bomb blast on Coffee House later. So, for now, let’s look
back on the last time a British monarch visited southern Ireland: George V in July 1911. I know we normally save these sorties into the Spectator archives for Fridays, but here’s a brief exception for the sake of both posterity and comparison:

News of the week, The Spectator, 15 July 1911

Last Saturday the King and Queen, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary, arrived at Dublin Castle for a visit of four days. They were received enthusiastically by immense crowds, and
the weather was excellent throughout. On the day of his arrival the King opened the new College of Science, visited Trinity College, and attended some races in Phoenix Park. On Sunday, after the
service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, his Majesty visited Maynooth College and the Royal Hospital, where he inspected a body of veterans. On Monday he received no fewer than 130 deputations, but was
able to make a separate reply to only two — the Citizens’ Committee of Dublin and the National University of Ireland. The Queen meanwhile received an address signed by 160,000 Irishwomen.
Afterwards the King visited Coombe Hospital and attended the races at Leopardstown. On Tuesday he reviewed 16,000 troops in Phoenix Park and presented new colours to several battalions. In a
charmingly worded message to the people on Wednesday the King announced his intention of visiting Ireland again soon. We have no doubt that frequent visits would be as agreeable as they would be
popular; but for the purpose a Royal residence ought to be established in Ireland.

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Show comments
  • GixxerBoy

    I fervently hope that this visit is another small step towards reconciliation and peace between the states of Ireland and the UK. In the meantime, most of us have been getting on with the job privately, creating close bonds of friendship, love and marriage. Like it or not, there are close and immutable ties between the two nations. The few who would perpetuate hate and murder dismay me. There have been terrible deeds on both sides. But most of us want not to gloss over those; rather acknowledge them, accept them and take pride in our ability to create a civilised future.

  • Capn Flint

    Eccentric? Not at all – I agree: I was pleading for consistency.
    The participation of non-citizens in our elections is a major scandal imo. Given the large numbers, and the potential for easily committed electoral fraud, it is downright suicidal.
    Allowing EU nationals the right to vote in our MEP elections (as well as local council elections and Welsh and Scottish Assembly elections) and to stand as candidates, also seems potentially dangerous. Surely it would be sensible to insist that at least they are registered UK taxpayers and have applied for UK nationality.

  • Dimoto

    Is there a memorial in Dublin to the large numbers of Irishmen who died fighting for the allies in the two world wars ?
    It would be a nice gesture for the queen to honour them.

  • Tadgh

    @Daniel Maris – I think you’ll find that the same right is extended to the 300000 British expats who live in the republic, all of whom have been given the right to vote in Irish elections.

  • daniel maris

    Capn Flint,

    No, I don’t think so. I think only citizens of this country should elect representatives of the citizenry. Call me eccentric if you must…

  • Capn Flint

    @daniel maris – and what about the Zimbabweans, and the Pakistanis and citizens of Fiji, and all the other 52 Commonwealth countries and territories? Is it more appropriate for them to have the vote in our elections than resident citizens of the Irish Republic?

  • Capn Flint

    I’ve noticed before that the Queen is a woman of extreme but modestly undemonstrative physical bravery. This is another such instance. She didn’t need to do all this. But her sense of duty is strong and unwavering.
    We are lucky, among all our misfortunes, to have her as a figurehead.
    (I wish though that she had been courageous enough not to sign the Lisbon Treaty.)

  • Cogito Ergosum

    @Daniel Maris 7.11pm
    I suspect the reason is that we British could not bring ourselves to admit that the Irish really really wanted out. Or at least out of the bits they didn’t like.

  • daniel maris

    Can anyone tell me why citizens of Ireland – a country that is paranoically insistent of its separation from our country can vote in our general elections?

  • Inigo Unsworth

    Overdue Renaissance
    It was a deft piece of sartorial theatre that attracted my attention at the recent royal wedding. No, not the stunning bridal gown of Catherine Middleton or the variety of priceless elegant fashion on display during a grand spectacle of pomp and intimacy. Rather, as a Dubliner now resident in England, I picked up on a familiar celtic icon with three-leaf symmetry emblazoned on the collar of Prince William

  • Davey L.S

    The arrival is so low key that it adds to the resonance of the visit somehow. I think that on the whole the visit is a positive step, we should reflect and remember those who lost their lives and who were injured in the troubles, but at some point we have to try to change the dynamic of relationship with the Republic, which could help all involved, now seems a good a time as any.

  • Baron

    the visit makes me more than anxious, I’d rather it didn’t take place.

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