The acceptance of an invitation extended to Queen Elizabeth 11 to pay an official visit to Ireland, most likely next May, has received a mixed reception from the various political parties, North and South of the border.
The invitation, issued by the President, Mrs. Mary McAleese, has received the enthusiastic backing of the main party leaders, with Fine Gael’s, Mr. Enda Kenny, Labour’s Deputy Leader, Ms. Joan Burton and Fianna Fail’s Mr. Micheal Martin viewing it as a positive and timely trip.
Democratic Unionist MP, Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson also deems it appropriate but Sinn Fein President, Mr. Gerry Adams believes it to be premature.
This will be the first official visit by a monarch of our nearest neighbours in one hundred years and will represent a huge step forward in relations between Ireland and Great Britain.
That it has taken so long for relations to develop to such a cordial level is indeed regrettable, and given the huge similarities which our countries enjoy, it is more than appropriate that Queen Elizabeth 11 should feel welcome to visit this nation.
There are few families in this country that do not have some relations living and working in Great Britain and, though interactions in years gone by have been understandably fractious, the calm which had descended in recent years has made such a visit not just possible but inevitable.
In addition, the Celtic Tiger and Ireland’s booming economy had lead to increasing numbers of the Queen’s own subjects choosing Ireland as a country in which to work and rear their family in recent years. To all of those the visit will be viewed as a most positive development and one which should be embraced enthusiastically and with the hospitality traditional to Ireland of the one hundred thousand welcomes.
Many have pointed to the large security operation which the acceptance of the invitation will entail. This is unfortunately a particularly necessary part of any visit by a foreign head of state and such operations were also essential when American Presidents such as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan travelled to these shores. To deem security precautions a reason not to proceed with the trip is therefore a mute point.
Already, there have been calls for an official visit to Thurles, to which Queen Elizabeth has strong ancestral ties. We are sure that should she decide to visit the Premier County she will receive a dignified and cordial welcome and will be treated with the respect and recognition deserving of her position.
However, notwithstanding the opposition being expressed in some quarters, the Queen is receiving invitations from many parts of the country and it is unlikely that on her first official visit she will be able to travel to as many parts as she would wish.
Tipperary will, of course, be hoping to sway favour in its direction and will make its case as vehemently as it can. If it succeeds in achieving its desire it will be a considerable coup indeed.
The visit is a perfect opportunity to showcase Ireland to tourists, not just in Great Britain, but around the world. A visit by a member of the British monarchy for the first time in a century will garner huge international interest and it behoves all of us to ensure that the picture that is painted of this country is one of a dignified and welcoming nation. To do otherwise would damage our image through the world.