Queen speaks of 'painful legacy'




The Queen tonight offered her deep sympathy to everyone who has suffered in centuries of conflict between Britain and Ireland.

In a powerful and moving address in Dublin Castle the monarch spoke of the painful legacy of the past and the need to remember all those whose lives have been affected.

She said the relationship had not always been straightforward but stopped short of delivering an apology for Britain’s actions in Ireland, saying looking back both nations could have acted differently.

The Queen, whose cousin Lord Mountbatten was blown up by the IRA off the County Sligo coast in 1979, said: “It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

“These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured or their families.

“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.

“With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

The Queen opened her address welcoming her host President Mary McAleese in Irish, “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde” – president and friends.

Her speech came midway through her state visit to the Irish Republic during which she laid separate wreaths in honour of the men and women who died fighting the British for independence and for the 49,000 Irish soldiers killed in the First World War. The ceremonies took place at the Garden of Remembrance in the centre of Dublin and the Islandbridge National War Memorial.

Dissident republicans protested as she was on her feet, but police kept them well away from Dublin Castle where the 172 guests included politicians and churchmen on all sides in the North and the Republic. The only party not represented was Sinn Féin.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny were among the guests who also included the North's First Minister Peter Robinson.

He was accompanied by his wife Iris, the disgraced MP who resigned after admitting to an affair with a teenage lover. It was her first public appearance in 15 months.

Celebrities included Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll and his actress wife Amy Huberman, who were invited to the glittering royal wedding of Prince William and wife Kate.

The Queen wore a white silk gown which had 2,091 hand- embroidered shamrocks and also featured on her left shoulder an Irish harp embellished with Swarovski crystals.

The monarch said she was delighted to be in Dublin and to experience first hand Ireland’s world famous hospitality.

She said: “Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

“Madame President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

“Indeed so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation of being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.

“Of course the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign.”

Queen's speech in full

“A hUachtarain agus a chairde (President and friends).

“Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world famous hospitality.

“Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

“Madame President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

“Indeed so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation, of being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.

“Of course the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign.

“It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

“These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured or their families.

“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.

“With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.

“But it is also true that no one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us.

“No one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.”

“Madame President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation.

"You set out to build bridges. And I have seen it first hand, your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island. You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998 it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

“That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

"What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.

“I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the Garda and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the Churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.

“Taken together, their work not only serves as the basis for reconciliation between our peoples and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.

“For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.

“The lessons from the peace process are clear – whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.

“There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines but which are at the heart of shared narrative.

“Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom. These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

“These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve. They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren; the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

“So we celebrate together the widespread spread of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be.”

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