Queen’s historic visit to Government Buildings rich in symbolism

QUEEN ELIZABETH’s visit to Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday was particularly significant because it was the last major public building constructed under British rule.

As it was a state visit, the Union Jack was flying with the Tricolour over the building, originally used as a college of science.

The British flag has been flown on previous visits by prime ministers and other dignitaries from Britain.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala, greeted the Queen and Prince Philip when they arrived at around 11.15am.

Mr Kenny pointed out aspects of the building from the top of the steps. Inside they were joined by the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, his wife, Carol Hanney, and Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague.

They paused on the half-landing to admire the light streaming through Evie Hone’s critically acclaimed stained glass window, My Four Green Fields.

It represents the four provinces of Ireland — the three crowns of Munster, the red hand of Ulster, the harp of Leinster and the half spread eagle and the word representing Connacht.

Part of the building now houses the office of the Attorney General and the Department of Finance.

The large Edwardian building was designed by Sir Aston Webb, the British architect who later re-designed the facade of Buckingham Palace in London.

The foundation stone was laid in 1904 by King Edward VII and the building was opened in 1911 by King George V.

The building still carries their names and crests, on either side and must have caught the Queen’s eye as she stood with Mr Kenny on the steps.

Much of the original interior of the original building has been gutted to facilitate the creation of a state-of-the-art new government office.

In 1991 former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey moved into the new building, nick-named Chaz Mahal because of the expenditure.

Mr Kenny, his wife and the royal couple sat by the grand fireplace in the Taoiseach’s office for a private 10-minute discussion before signing the visitors book.

After meeting members of the cabinet, junior members and the Attorney General, Máire Whelan, the Queen and duke viewed two excerpts from the Waterford Charter Roll.

Director of the Waterford Museum, Eamonn McEneaney, was on hand to present the parchment roll that dates from 1372 and measures around four metres in length.

The roll contains portraits of five medieval kings of England as well as an illustration of the walled city of Waterford, the earliest illustration of an Irish city.

The Queen’s visit to Government Buildings lasted around a half hour. Before leaving she stopped to wave at staff from Government Buildings who gave her a cheer and a round of applause. And, as if on cue, the sun came out.


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