Royal visit - Memorial ceremony urges peace

There have been some complaints that the visit of Queen Elizabeth II was not necessary at this time, and some people have cited the cost of providing security as justification for their opposition.

Extra security would be necessary in any event, but the violence wrought by a comparatively few mindless individuals more than justifies not only the cost of that security but also the traffic disruption that objectors so readily denounce.

In the last analysis, it is not the queen who has caused the disruption, but those people who exploit the opportunity to engage in violence. The age profile of those involved is a clear indication that they were not motivated by any personal historical involvement. It has just been an opportunity to engage in violence. Everyone has a right to demonstrate peacefully, but those who engage in violent protest are an affront to our democratic republic, and thus they add insult to the historical injuries they are supposedly highlighting.

The violent protests have been attracting international publicity, and fuelling those who like to stereotype us as backward Paddies protesting about grievances of a bygone age. Our economy is in deep trouble and we need all the international understanding we can get. It a great pity the occasion that is sullied in any way by such mindless behaviour.

Nothing should be allowed to detract from the poignancy of the queen’s laying a wreath at the Irish War Memorial. She was commemorating those Irishmen who fought and died in the First World War. In 1966, during the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion, the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, lamented that he and many others had questioned the motives of those Irishmen. “It must, in their honour and in fairness to their memory, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose,” he then added.

It was called “the war to end all wars”, and many people joined in the belief that they were fighting for the rights of small nations. “Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives gladly given for love of country,” Pádraig Pearse wrote in 1915.

The idealism of millions of people throughout the world was betrayed. The episode should have been a reminder of the destruction and futility of war and violence, but was repeated barely two decades later.

Much has been made of the significance of the queen’s visit to Croke Park in view of its connection with Bloody Sunday in 1920, but the visit is also a reminder of the unforgettable scenes of the Ireland-England rugby match in February 2007. Probably nobody who was in Croke Park on that day in 1920 is alive today, but most people can remember how an all-Ireland team handed the English rugby team their record defeat in the tournament.

The island was probably never more united. It was a magnificent demonstration of the understanding that we should develop, in all our interests.


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