Queen Elizabeth II recently surpassed King George III in longevity on the throne yet she is visiting the Republic of Ireland for the first time in her almost 60 year old reign, starting today, May 17. The Catholic Herald published this analysis of her visit:
There have been difficult moments in her long reign, and the week of May 17 to May 20 may prove a challenging phase for the Queen. That is the week when she visits the Republic of Ireland, the first British monarch to go to what was once called “southern Ireland” since her grandfather’s state visit to Dublin in July 1911. The Queen has made over 380 state visits during her reign, and to many parts of the globe: but until now the Republic of Ireland has been the one destination which was never included.
It is hardly necessary to repeat the numerous reasons why such a visit could not take place until now: but the partition of Ireland and the “Troubles” in the north certainly played a part. Anglo-Irish relations have been through some tricky times in recent decades, reaching a nadir in the 1970s and 80s. In 1977, when Elizabeth made a formal visit to Belfast, she was hanged in effigy in the Falls Road. In 1979, her uncle by marriage, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered just off the Sligo coast. In response, Irish republicans would cite many distressing events – such as Bloody Sunday in 1972 – when Crown troops opened fire on unarmed citizens. And there’s another point: in Ireland, the British Army was historically referred to as “Crown forces” – the notorious Black and Tans being an example – so that “the Crown” itself was linked with the conduct of some of its less worthy soldiery.
The author and columnist at The Catholic Herald, Mary Kenny is also the author of Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate Between Ireland and the British Monarchy and Goodbye to Catholic Ireland. It will be interesting to follow coverage of this event.