Next time, the Queen should cross the Foyle

I’m not, you understand, any kind of mad royalist or unionist but isn’t here something slightly woebegone about the Queen’s programme in Northern Ireland? The down- the- bulletin coverage it has received is not only a sign of the times but shows the lack of something to grab attention. Last year’s visit, the first Royal Maundy service outside England at Armagh was symbolically adequate and interesting. Limiting this year’s to the level of the modest but no doubt very worthy visit to Lisneal College carefully just outside the Londonderry county borough boundary was over-cautiously calibrated. Obviously the NIO still keeps the Derry side off limits ; this should change. President McAleese rightly visits all parts of NI – she was very well received in the Protestant Fountain even though she hails from Belfast.
The breakthrough visit proclaiming inclusivity would comprise a civic reception in the Guildhall recalling links between Derry and Iona where several of her Scottish ancestors are buried, a pause and a bow at the Bloody Sunday memorial, ecumenical prayers in St Columbs’ Cathedral, opening of the new heritage centre at Ebrington Barracks, admitting rawness over the army connection but celebrating the naval tradition that was so popular in the Bogside a couple of generations ago when the barracks was HMS Sea Eagle. Fair play to Mark Durkan who has always handled these events impeccably. The SDLP mayor Gerard Diver is also admirably, even courageously cross community. Sinn Fein would do better to withhold critical comment. Parity of esteem can’t be a one-way street. The twinning of the two Heads of State at the Hillsborough reception is a welcome recognition of the warmest part of the northern Protestant all-Ireland dimension and easily avoids a suggestion of joint sovereignty. The symbolism is highly appropriate. Next time, let’s go one bolder and allow the Queen to recognise a great Catholic hurt. And can the Dublin visit be long delayed? The Queen is getting on, you know.

  • Scamallach

    No need to rush it on account of her age. After all, the advantage of a monarchy is that when one dies, another one takes their place.

  • And can the Dublin visit be long delayed?

    Why bother? The woman is just a reminder of the past, and carries too many negative associations for a lot of people. Better to wait for Charles who is genuinely popular in the south (where he has already visited) and carries no baggage.

    Stay away, Elizabeth, you’re not really wanted.

  • Dec

    And can the Dublin visit be long delayed?

    If the long-standing rumours that she has an instinctive dislike for Irish people are true, then yes.

  • Oiliféar

    “The woman is just a reminder of the past, and carries too many negative associations for a lot of people. Better to wait for Charles who is genuinely popular in the south (where he has already visited) and carries no baggage.”

    No doubt she would attract “protesters”, and I would agree that Charles would be likely to attract less (but I can’t really put my finger on why since I can’t really understand those that would “protest” to begin with).

    Reality is that whether it be Charles or Elisabeth the overwhelming number of the southern populous would be warmly welcoming. Better reason for some to leave it off until later is to put a bigger gap between the visit and the Peace Process buzz. The sooner it happens the more likely that her visit will not only be popular but will have scenes of people hanging out the windows in Dublin cheering her fervently along. That is not a picture some would want to be seen.

    “If the long-standing rumours that she has an instinctive dislike for Irish people are true, then yes.”

    That would put her in opposition with the majority of English monarchs since the Norman invasion (and before) and in opposition to the attitude of her eldest. Will the English likely hop off his head on that account as is the historical precedent? 🙂

  • Maybe if the Queen learned Irish – I’m sure it should be easy for her as she should already be familiar with Scots Gaelic from her sojourns in Balmoral – she would be more welcome among nationalists in Ireland. After all if the North is part of the UK, then Irish as a language spoken in that part of the UK by a significant proportion of the citizenry should be acknowledged officially by the Head of State. And what better way to do that except to speak Irish when she next visits Ireland, be it north or south…

  • Oiliféar

    RE: Concubhar @ 07:31 PM

    Like her processor, Elizabeth I who was a good friend of the Gaelic tongue in Ireland – encouraging it’s speech among the English in Ireland, funding books to be printed in Gaelic and taking lessons in it herself.

  • Rory Carr

    If Charles, as Horseman alleges, is “genuinely popular in the south” (of Ireland presumably) I should think he would be keen to spend a lot of time there as outside of his coterie of sycophants in Britain it must be the only place in these islands where there is any widespread affection for him.

    As to the visit itself, although I am fiercely anti-monarchist I have to recognise the reality of the queen’s position as UK head of state and I can appreciate how a visit by HM Queen Elizabeth II to any part of Ireland can be seen in a positive light and, now that Irish unification and sovereignty of the whole island resides no longer within the power or will of her government but by agreement with the people of the six-counties, might be a calming gesture after all our years of war.

    I do not agree with Scamallach that a visit by her would be more contentious than a visit by Charles as and when (or possibly “as if”) he succeeds to the throne. I should think that age and custom have made her personally a non-threatening emblem of royalty to the nationalist community and a decorous embarrassment might temper protest which reticence would be absent if it were Charles who might be seen as “new blood, fair game”.

    If there were to be protest at the visit one would imagine that anti-monarchists from the unionist community might make common cause with republicans from the nationalist community in a sort of united front on the single issue of monarchy per se, but of course the tragedy of our shared history does not allow for that. If we wish to exercise such camaraderie over our common disgust at the institution of monarchy we can only do so comfortably in Britain.

  • Rory Carr,

    If Charles, as Horseman alleges, is “genuinely popular in the south” (of Ireland presumably) …

    Yes, Ireland, of course. Though he may be popular in lots of other ‘souths’ too.

    I haven’t any polls or anything to base that on – it’s just a gut feeling. Irish people (didn’t you used to be one?) have a tendency to support an underdog, and in British media terms Charles is certainly one of those. I honestly think that he could walk the streets of Dublin without a bodyguard, except for all the aul wans that would be trying to kiss him. He couldn’t walk the streets of Limerick, but then who can … ?

  • slug

    Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll summed up the significance of the all-Ireland team meeting the Queen today at Hillsborough:

    “I think the players from the Republic understand what the Queen means as much as the northern players do to the southern players when they meet Mary McAleese. So it’s a reciprocation and an understanding and it’s another opportunity to be patted on the back, so that can’t be a bad thing,”

  • slug

    “The down- the- bulletin coverage it has received”

    It ain’t down the bulletin at 21:10: Royal event for Grand Slam team [Members of Ireland’s Grand Slam winning rugby team have been met the Queen at a reception at Hillsborough Castle.]

  • fair_deal


    As the cityside of Londonderry is one of the dissident hotspots in NI there are probably some additional security barriers to such an event beyond NIO handling.

  • slug

    How long the Queen has been Queen is shown by the fact that her first visit as Queen to Derry was in the 1950s when she actually went by train (along the Derry line). She did walkabout outside the Guildhall when she got off at the station (then Cityside). On route she got off at Ballymena railway station and walked along to the railway bridge and waved down to all the people of Ballymena from there.

  • DJ

    Maybe she does not want to play the river and wants to concentrate on the ball?

  • Greenflag

    King Richard II (Plantagenet ) landed at Waterford on October 2nd 1394 with a large army . The English Parliament had granted large sums for the ‘recovery’ of Ireland which had mostly lapsed (not for the first time )back into the old ways . In a letter to his uncle Edmund of York -Regent of England (in Richard II’s absence )Richard divided Ireland into ‘the Wild Irish our enemies ‘ ‘English rebels’ and the ‘obedient English. Of the English rebels he wrote
    ‘they have become disobedient through injustice practised upon them by our officers and if they are not won over they will join the Irish enemies ‘

    Richard II (he was the young king who had Wat Tyler (English peasants revolt) killed and many of his followers hanged and slaughtered ) seemed to have a ‘soft ‘ spot for the Irish only indulging in a little light slaughter but eventually he won the submission of most of the Irish Chieftains and the Norman lords . He sailed back to England after 7 months convinced that Ireland was pacified i.e mission accomplished . In reality hardly an acre of ground changed hands as a result of his 7 month sojourn .

    Richard II left Roger Mortimer (heir to the childless King ) in ‘charge ‘ but Mortimer was slain in battle at Kellistown in Carlow on July 20th 1398 against an army of the Leinster Irish . Mortimer was said to have gone into battle wearing only the linen dress of an Irish Chief (he had apparently gone native ) .

    When Richard II heard the news he was furious and sailed back to Ireland with another army and sent the Earl of Gloucester to bring Art McMurrough Kavanagh to submission . McMurrough refused to submit. All of this toing and froing was a considerabe drain on the exchequer and complaints were being made by his ‘loyal english ‘ subjects on the costs of the wars in Ireland . Apparently in those days the English were less tolerant of their taxes going into a hole in a bog in Ireland .

    After three months Richard II marched back to Waterford as events in England (rumours of revolt) compelled his return . On disembarking he heard news of Derby’s landing at Ravenspur .

    Richard II was deposed and reputedly was permitted to starve to death in prison by his successor Henry IV .

    So what has the above to do with Queenie?

    Well Ireland was and is ‘bad news ‘ for English monarchs historically . Had Richard II not bothered with Ireland there would have been no Henry IV and probably no Wars of the Roses – No Tudor monarchy and more importantly Richard II would have died at least well fed in a comfortable bed and not as an emaciated wretch in a dungeon 😉

    Queenie has left an Irish visit off her calendar now for so long that at this point she might as well not bother .

    She’ll neither be welcome or unwelcome apart from the oul wans in Moore St . But then they are also fans of Coronation St and East Enders 😉

    No big deal anymore.

  • Brian Walker

    Fair Deal – very likely but who knows in a year’s time? Greenflag, King James thought well enough of Derry to visit it until a cannon ball narrowly missed him near the windmill in Bishop Street. And don’t let’s forget bad King John who crossed the Lagan near Shaw’s Bridge. Maybe that proves your point!

  • Greenflag

    Brian Walker ,

    King James ( Shamus a caca ( the shit ) to the Irish was not alone in the near miss stakes . IIRC King Billy had a couple of near escapes at the Boyne .

    We Irish need to keep away from ‘monarchy ‘ Our traditional tribal culture did not encourage ‘strong kings ‘ No High King had ever more than a tenuous hold on the country and ‘succession’ issues in the absence of primogeniture kept the island’s clans and tribes and provinces at each other’s throats for centuries .

    And to cap it all our provincial lords and earls always seemed to pick the wrong side whenever the English had a civil war or a throne succession struggle .

    The Geraldines supported the Yorkists against the Tudors in the Wars of the Roses and then the Irish supported King James against Willam of Orange and King Charles against Cromwell and the Parliamentarians . Picking three losers in a row is bad joss 😉

    I guess this is called the ‘luck ‘ of the Irish 😉

    Smoking is lethal for the body physical and In Ireland’s case monarchy is bad news for the body politic 🙂

    Nothing personal against Queenie as an individual . Good woman and all that and does her duty .

  • Harry Flashman

    Prince Charles strolled happily around the Heritage Village with Paddy “Bogside” about fifteen years ago and my mother has memories of seeing the Queen drive up Great James’ Street on her last visit.

    Much ado about nothing, Derry, Ireland’s staunchest garrison town is as safe as houses for the British Royal Family, always was, always will be. Just ask all those Heatheringtons and Thorntons and Rutherfords and Whitesides and Dobbins who live in Creggan and the Brandywell and the Bog and ask which of Her Majesty’s predecessors’ Ships their grandfathers sailed in on.

  • Greenflag,

    “Had Richard II not bothered with Ireland there would have been no Henry IV”

    Richard sowed the seeds of his downfall when he tried to prevent Henry from his inheritance of the Dukedom of Lancaster. He would have been caught somewhere, even if he had not been intercepted coming back from Ireland.

    I think that a state visit is in Ireland’s interest. The Irish people would want to welcome her to give their own demonstration of their pride as a nation state. I saw a marvellous example of this when the England Rugby team were given a rapturous welcome by the Irish at Croke Park a couple of years ago (before they were thrashed 43-13 of course)

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    It’s an old chestnut, but it’s amazing how folk overly bow, genuflect, swoon etc…in the company of someone they regard better than themselves. Monarchy, popery, PM’s and generals were the old celebrity culture, today it’s film ‘stars’, pop ‘stars’, football ‘stars’, soap ‘stars’, reality TV ‘stars’ etc…Tiresome being constantly fed this media hype..todays teenagers, mainly the victims.

    Regarding the royal visit but looking at the dittering old gent, (the Lord Lieutenant was his handle I think) that accompanied the old English Queen in Derry and who nearly fell over himself being overly courteous, dressed in his Trumpton uniform, red stripe down the legs of his trousers, probably up all night ironing them, and polishing his buttons, etc… I realised that it really is stuff of bygone days.

    However, it would be good to reciprocate and welcome the English Queen to the Republic of Ireland. Other royals have paid us a visit, Queen Beautrix of the Netherlands even strolled casually through Temple Bar accompanied by Haughey. But given our torrent history I’m sure the security for Queen Elizabeth II would be more stringent. But she should be welcomed. It would be another taboo broken. Probably folk wouldn’t really care either, but not doubt the media hype machine would come into play to stir things up.

  • Brian Walker

    Well guys, it’s my own fault that we plunged so deep into the Dublin visit theme and cantered round the course of 800 years of British royalty in Ireland. My main theme though was to encourage a bolder gesture of mutual reconciliation and
    ( this one is more difficult) recognition. Note the word “mutual.” I know it’s aspirational but a bow at the Bloody Sunday memorial would be momentous. Visiting both sides of the siege city would be a fine symbol. In another age, in 1953 the Queen received the mainly unionist Derry establishment in Brooke Park, on the edge of what is now called the Bogside and the Creggan. The territory would be the same but the community and the politics have changed utterly, a fact such a visit would mark.

  • Georgeous George

    Well done to Sharon Ní Bheoláin for making her the UK queen rather than the English Queen.

  • Greenflag

    Seymour ,

    ‘Richard sowed the seeds of his downfall’

    True and he did’nt sow a seed for a Plantagenet succession . He also got a bad press from his successor .

    I can agree with your comment that a State visit would be in the Irish State’s interest -more for the symbolic aspects than any practical ones. Monarchy is not what it used to be and whether our personal views are anti monarchical or not (and mine are ) the fact is that the Queen is the recognised head and representative of the UK.

    ‘I saw a marvellous example of this when the England Rugby team were given a rapturous welcome by the Irish at Croke Park a couple of years ago’

    IIRC the English team got a standing ovation from the crowd when at one of the most difficult periods in the ‘troubles’ they played in Dublin when the Scots or Welsh did’nt .

    At this point I don’t believe the Irish have a problem with a visit by the Queen . But for reasons which I fail to see the ‘reluctance ‘ appears to be from the other end . The other Royals have been and gone and I don’t believe any of them had any security issues . One I beleive shopped openly in Henry St ?

    Greagoir ,

    ‘I realised that it really is stuff of bygone days.’

    True -but don’t take away people’s illusions be they of days of former imperial glory or of an assured place in the hierarchy of celebrity .
    Still on balance you strike the right note and although security would be stringent I personnally believe the Queen would be as safe as she would be in Tunbridge Wells .

  • danielmoran

    brian msg 20. it’s an interesting suggestion of yours that the queen would make a gesture at the bloody sunday memorial. just imagine the blood pressure levewls in dup members if that were to happen. i don’t think she would be advised to go even across the river until after saville’s report came out. nio officials are notoriously cautious.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “Well done to Sharon Ní Bheoláin for making her the UK queen rather than the English Queen.”

    Well the handle of ‘English Queen’ is perfectly apt, but in this case, given the context of NI, UK was applied. Just part of the media ‘newspeak’ to blur the outlines between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. They’ll have us joining the Commonwealth next, a notion already being bandied about by the media.

  • Greenflag

    Brian Walker ,

    My main theme though was to encourage a bolder gesture of mutual reconciliation and
    ( this one is more difficult) recognition.

    Obviously this is more of an issue for NI than ROI . We’ve been ‘reconciled ‘ with the UK for ages .

    My apologies for cantering through some of the ‘highlights ‘ of monarchical history.

    ‘The Queen is getting on, you know. ‘

    Well her mum made it to the century and herself looks like she’ll be around for a while longer. Perhaps she’ll make a state visit the ‘last’ State visit of her reign thus symbolising the British monarchy’s ‘affection’ for an independent Irish Republican State or she may leave such a visit for her successor so as the whoever gets off to a good start ? Either way any such visit will have more of an impact north of the border than in the republic -imo

  • Limerickman

    Keep the bitch out of this island.