Hours before Queen Elizabeth arrived in Ireland, the army defused a bomb discovered in a tote bag in the luggage compartment of a bus that was heading toward Dublin. The narrowly averted violence shows that while Queen Elizabeth’s visit is of great symbolic importance, there are still active dissidents who find her presence on Irish soil to be offensive. The Queen’s visit is the first by a British monarch since Irish independence; George V went to Ireland in 1911, while it was still part of the UK, and no kings or queens have visited since.
Queen Elizabeth, wearing a symbolic green suit, was greeted by President Mary McAleese when she landed in Ireland. The security for her visit will cost $42.4 million, an incredible sum considering that Ireland is in fairly desperate economic straits. Manholes, culverts and drains have been sealed in advance of her arrival, and Dublin residents will be subject to random searches.
Activists have already made it clear that Queen Elizabeth is not welcome in the Republic of Ireland. These dissidents are unhappy with the fact that there is a contiuing British presence in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday agreement, feeling that this prevents Irish unity.
But British and Irish officials say that these activists are a small minority, and that most Irish citizens welcome Queen Elizabeth’s visit. Sir John Major, who was prime minister when the 1998 peace deal was brokered, said, “I think you can find people who will demonstrate against anything or anyone on any occasion, so I think there may well be a handful of people who will demonstrate, but that plainly — from what we’ve seen in the nine months of preparation — is not the view of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.”
Will the Queen’s visit go smoothly? We’ll keep you posted as events unfold.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.