Protests fail to stop visit of Princess Anne to Croker

There was intense security when the British Princess Anne today became the first member of the Royal Family to enter Croke Park in Dublin – the bastion of Gaelic sport.

There was intense security when the British Princess Anne today became the first member of the Royal Family to enter Croke Park in Dublin – the bastion of Gaelic sport.

The Princess was there to support the Scottish rugby team in their Six Nations clash.

The security was noticeably higher than last February when the English rugby team played their first match at the ground, according to observers.

Dissident republicans threatened a protest, but in the event only between 20 and 30 people gathered outside the ground to show their opposition to the presence of British royalty.

The Princess took her seat four away from President Mary McAleese – and close to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Edwin Poots the Sports Minister from the Northern Ireland Executive who travelled to Dublin for the match.

The GAA agreed to the use of Croke Park for rugby and football internationals while Landsdowne Road is redeveloped.

Die-hard republicans opposed to all things British opposed the move – both because it meant the playing of "English" games on the GAA pitch and visits by English teams.

Despite that, teams and their supporters have been given warm welcomes.

A spokeswoman for the Gardaí said there had been no trouble whatsoever during the protest.

The visit by Princess Anne was the latest in a growing number by members of the royal family which bring ever closer the day when the Queen will make a first visit south of the border.

It is increasingly being talked about, but no date has been set.

The Queen is making a groundbreaking first visit to Co Armagh next month.

It is the first time the traditional Easter ceremony has ever been held outside England or Wales, and it has only been in Wales once.

It was a sign of the changing times in the North that a visit by the monarch was publicised so far in advance – traditionally engagements have been kept secret until they are actually happening.

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