The Danish government today expressed its regret over the Viking invasion of Ireland more than 1,000 years ago.
The belated near apology came as thousands gathered to watch a replica Norse warrior ship pull into Dublin’s Docklands after an epic voyage across the North Sea.
In a fit of diplomacy sparked by the sense of occasion, Danish Culture Minister Brian Mikkelson was moved to extend a surprise olive branch.
“In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings,” Mr Mikkelson said.
“But the warmth and friendliness with which you greet us today and the Viking ship show us that, luckily, it has all been forgiven.”
The only chords of disharmony came from demonstrators opposed to the M3 motorway planned to a route through the archaeologically-rich Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
The Sea Stallion, or Havhingsten, set sail from the Danish port of Roskilde on July 1 to recreate the journey of the Viking pirates to Dublin.
The mock long boat – the largest in the world – is a reconstruction of the Skuldelev 2 built in Dublin in 1042 and believed to have sunk in the Roskilde Fjord 30 years later.
Archaeologists traced the wood used in the original to trees felled in Glendalough, Co Wicklow in the mountains that surrounded the Viking settlement in Dublin.
A crew of 65 men and women sailed the replica vessel over 1000 nautical miles from Denmark to Ireland in a voyage described as a living archaeological experiment.
Diarmuid Murphy, 34, from Bantry, Co Cork, one of only two Irish sailors on the ship, admitted he almost gave up at the outset.
“About 18 hours into it I was just so cold and wet and I said there’s no way I’ll do this,” he said.
But after surviving on a diet of dried food and having to sleep in the cold, cramped and wet conditions of an open boat he was overcome as they arrived at their journey’s end.
“It was fairly emotional all right, it was very hard to keep the tears back,” he said.
The Sea Stallion sailed up the River Liffey from Dublin Bay alongside a flotilla of naval, garda and port boats as well as small traditional Irish rowing currachs.
The bells of Christchurch Cathedral rang out to herald the arrival while office workers in the huge glass buildings that line the revamped docks pressed against windows to watch the spectacle.
Both the President Mary McAleese and Queen Margrethe of Denmark sent their congratulations to the crew of the long boat, which will be housed in Dublin’s National Museum until next summer’s return leg of the voyage.