QUEEN ELIZABETH last night offered her “sincere thoughts and deep sympathies” to those who have suffered due to the troubled past of Britain and Ireland — but stopped short of an apology.
In a landmark speech, the British head of state spoke of the personal pain visited upon her and others by the years of conflict and said, with hindsight, some things could have been done differently — and others not at all.
Her keynote remarks at a state banquet in Dublin Castle were greeted with prolonged applause as she addressed the blood- stained legacy shared by the two nations to an Irish audience for the first time in her 59-year reign.
Opening her speech with “a Uachtaráin agus a chairde”, the Queen went on to express regret over the turmoil of the past.
“It is a sad and regrettable reality that, through history, our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss,” she said.
In a clear reference to the IRA’s murder of her cousin Lord Mountbatten in 1979, the Queen added: “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 and 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.
“Madam 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.”
Speaking of the “golden thread” that connected millions of lives across the two islands, the Queen added: “I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process.”
Greeting the Queen, President Mary McAleese said the two nations, now equal, needed to learn from the difficult centuries behind us.
“Inevitably, where there are the colonisers and the colonised, the past is a repository of sources of bitter divisions,” she said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, making a special trip to Dublin to attend the state banquet and underline the significance of the Queen’s presence in the Republic, said the two countries now had a “relationship of opportunity” which would benefit both as he spoke of the possibility of the Olympic torch pass- ing through the Republic on its way to the London games next year.
The Queen’s appearance at the GAA headquarters in Croke Park had been seen as the most controversial part of her four-day tour, being the site of the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre in which British troops killed 14 civilians.
Addressing the Queen, GAA president Christy Cooney said: “Your presence does honour to our association, to its special place in Irish life, and to its hundreds of thousands of members. Today will go down in the history of the GAA.”
After the speech, he presented the monarch with a specially bound edition of The GAA: A People’s History, and Prince Philip with a hurley and sliotar.
At Islandbridge, leaders of both traditions North and South, including members of the UDA, were represented at the monument to those who died under the banner of the crown in the two world wars.
The Queen laid a poppy wreath at the memorial’s ‘war stone’, while the President laid a laurel wreath, before both leaders observed a minute’s silence.
Earlier, the royal couple visited the Gravity Bar in the Guinness Storehouse, where they politely declined the offer of a “perfectly pulled” pint.
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