She laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance, and she visited Croke Park, site of the first Bloody Sunday massacre in 1920, when British forces opened fire on a GAA match.
On her fourth day, the queen visited Cashel, Co. Tipperary. The town’s Sinn Féin mayor, Michael Browne, met her and shook her hand. Browne had been told by party headquarters to boycott the visit in keeping with party policy, but he disregarded the order.
As Cllr Browne told The Nationalist:
I just said “I welcome you to Cashel your majesty and I hope you enjoy your stay” in Cashel. (. . .) She just said thanks very much. I am glad I met her. I can only see that her visit can do good. You could be protesting all your life. (. . .) We are in fierce hard economic times and the fact she has come here might encourage more tourists to visit. If the economy is to take off again that is the sort of money we have to get into the country’ (. . .)
For her speech at Dublin Castle, the queen opened with a few words in Irish: ‘A Uachtaráin agus a chairde ‘, she said. At her side, President McAleese – who had suggested some Irish phrases the queen might use but assumed it wouldn’t happen – gasped ‘Wow’, and spontaneous applause erupted among the crowd of 172 guests.
The visit had been a roaring success, and Sinn Féin had missed out on it. In the aftermath, speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, [Gerry] Adams tried to defend the party’s stance, while also hinting at an openness to future engagement:
‘Many people I have spoken to, particularly from the North, have expressed a disappointment that she did not apologise in a more direct and clear way for British involvement in Irish affairs. [. . .]
‘If there is to be more benefit out of this, it will be if it moves beyond these important gestures and remarks’ [. . .].
‘It’s another step in the journey. It was the conditions created by the peace process which allowed this to happen.
‘It’s a page in a book – and we need to write the next page and the next page and keep moving the process on.’
Things moved on very quickly. Later that same year, as Sinn Féin’s candidate for the Irish presidency, Martin McGuinness, said he was prepared to meet all heads of state without exception, including the queen. The party knew it had been out of step with the rest of the island in its boycott of the queen’s visit, and wanted to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Continue reading @ Irish Times.