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The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited the Republic of Ireland on 17-20 May. The first ever visit by a British Head of State.
At a banquet in Dublin Castle on Wednesday 18 May, the Queen offered her “sincere thoughts and deep sympathy” to the victims of Ireland and the UK’s troubled past.
She said with hindsight,”we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all”.
“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.
Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.
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. But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us. No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.”
- Read the speech in full on British Monarchy website
Joining Her Majesty The Queen on the State Visit, Prime Minister David Cameron said the event “set the seal” on an already very strong relationship between the two countries.
He said the Queen’s State Visit to Ireland has shown enormous sensitivity to past issues and problems as well as the opportunities for the future.
- Read the PM’s remarks in full on Number10 website
Foreign Secretary William Hague accompanied The Queen on the visit, and met Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore in Dublin on 17 May.
“It is a historic event, that’s not misusing this word, it is the first ever State Visit to Ireland by a British monarch. The Queen has made over three hundred overseas visits but this one is particularly special; a visit to our nearest neighbour with which we have uniquely close links and which is also, as you have said, one of our most important trading partners as well.
And I know that Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have been not only very much looking forward to their visit they have been delighted today by the warmth of the welcome from the President, from the Ministers and very much, indeed, from the people of Ireland.
This visit represents an important moment in British and Irish history. It marks the transformation of the relationship between Britain and Ireland in recent years, the strength of our economic, political and family ties and the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland as well. And it provides an excellent opportunity to celebrate all of these things and to place the emphasis on making the links even stronger for the future.”
- Foreign Secretary press conference in full The programme included a formal welcome by President McAleese at aras an Uachtarain, a ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance, a courtesy call on the Taoiseach at Government Buildings and a State dinner in Dublin Castle, at which both The Queen and the President delivered speeches.
The programme also included events at Trinity College Dublin, at the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, at the Guinness Storehouse and at Croke Park.
On 19 May the British Embassy hosted a celebration of the visit.
Two thousand guests joined The Queen as she welcomed the President to enjoy an evening of fashion, music and theatre at an iconic modern venue in the Dublin docklands.