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17 May 2011

Why the Irish love the Queen

I WAS brought up in Dublin but when I visited my aunt in Cork, I plunged into a world of royal gossip.

Although her taxi-driver husband and his family were republicans, Auntie May made no secret of her preoccupation with the doings of the Queen and assorted royals.

A story firmly believed locally was that Queen Victoria, on reviewing the Cork Fusiliers, had been heard to remark: “Now dem’s troops.” What was inarguable was that on her last visit in 1900, 80-year-old Victoria received as rousing a welcome as she had on her first in 1849.

George V and Queen Mary also brought out the crowds in 1911. Until now, that was to be the last visit, for in 1916 an uprising by members of a small secret society took Irish nationalism on a violent course.

The execution of 17 rebels turned public opinion sour and to express loyalty to the Crown could have you shot by the IRA.

My mother was not much interested in royal gossip but she approved of the stability offered by the monarch, admired the Queen and told me how bully-boy republicans in 1952 had prevented cinemas showing the film of her coronation.

The Republic of Ireland of my childhood was a grey country, full of rain, dull politicians and hectoring priests and as my mother explained to me, everyone needs a little magic which the royals bring.

From the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, members of the Royal family were under severe threat and their visits became a nightmare. In 1979 Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered in the Irish Republic.

Undeterred, other royals made occasional brief trips for personal reasons.

The close Anglo-Irish relationship through the Northern Ireland peace process culminated in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement.

That same year, the Island of Ireland Peace Park, in Belgium, commemorating the Irish dead of the Great War, was opened by the Irish President Mary McAleese, in the Queen’s presence. Since then, she has worked to bring about a state visit.

Last year, the Irish Embassy in London gave a formal reception for Prince Charles. I was among the hundreds of first and second-generation Irish there and the welcome given to him almost raised the roof.

That is the kind of reception that 80% of the Irish people would like to give the Queen, who has been a fixture in all our lives since our birth.

Sadly, the bitter malcontents who feed off hatred are determined to spoil the party for everyone else.

Ruth Dudley Edwards


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