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Now is not the time for royal visit

SO the seemingly endless speculation and conditioning on a visit to the Republic of Ireland by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has come to pass.

President McAleese, with agreement of the government, has formally issued the British monarch and her husband Prince Phillip with an invitation to visit. This will be the first official visit by a reigning monarch to the Republic of Ireland since Irish Independence in 1922 and is being portrayed as part of a normalisation process between two friendly neighbouring states.

However, I am of the view that it is a further step to restore a formalised British dimension to the Irish State and perhaps even the start of preliminary talks on rejoining the Commonwealth. It is, I believe, part of a broader long-term strategy of cultural re-incorporation of this state into the British sphere of influence. We already have a situation whereby the British monarch bestows titles of nobility and honours on Irish citizens as if they were her own subjects, which I regard as an unwelcome intrusion into the republican ethos upon which this state was built. It seems the old political imperialism is being replaced by a new cultural imperialism.

Undoubtedly, a significant number of Irish citizens will be strongly opposed to such a visit, not out of anti-British feeling, but on the message it would send. A visit might be interpreted as "a return to the fold" and a weakening of our policy of separation from Great Britain.

On February 20 2008, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in response to a question from Enda Kenny, said he believed a file existed which would be of assistance in establishing if members of the British forces were involved in or knew in advance about the killing of solicitor Pat Finucane. Also, in November 2006, a report issued by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice spoke of "acts of international terrorism that were colluded in by British security forces". The report went on to highlight instances of British obstruction in investigating such crimes as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the Miami Showband Massacre of 1975. In addition, just recently the Police Ombudsman in the North, Al Hutchinson, declared finding an investigative bias by the RUC into the killing of 15 people in McGurk’s bar in 1971.

Until Britain deals appropriately with these issues she must be regarded as a hostile and adversarial neighbour. I hope that a time will come when a visit to Ireland by the British head of state will become a normal and uncontroversial event, welcomed by all, but that time is not yet.

Tom Cooper
Dublin 16