The President’s Speech in Dublin Castle, 2011…

For the historic days that are in it…

A Shoilse Banríon, A Mhórgacht Ríoga, A Thaoisigh, a Phríomh-Aire, a Chéad Aire, Tánaiste, Rúnaí Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus a aíonna oirirce, fearaim céad míle fáilte romhaibh tráthnóna go Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath ar ócáid atá thar a bheith speisialta ar fad.

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Taoiseach, Prime Minister, First Minister, Tanaiste, Foreign Secretary, Distinguished Guests:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Dublin Castle this evening on this the first ever State Visit to take place between our two countries. This visit is a culmination of the success of the Peace Process. It is an acknowledgment that while we cannot change the past, we have chosen to change the future.

The relationship between our two neighbouring nations is long, complex and has often been turbulent. Like the tides that surround each of us, we have shaped and altered each other. This evening we celebrate a new chapter in our relationship that may still be a work in progress, but happily, has also become a work of progress, of partnership and friendship.

The contemporary British-Irish relationship is multifaceted and strongly underpinned by the most important connection of all — people and families.

Large numbers of British born people live here in Ireland and many more of our citizens have British backgrounds, ancestry and identity. In Britain, those of Irish birth, descent or identity are numbered in millions.

The two way flow of people between these islands goes back millennia. This very room is dedicated to St Patrick, whose name is synonymous with Ireland. Yet he is reputed to have been born in Britain. Patrick’s life as the man who brought Christianity to Ireland is illustrative of the considerable exchange of ideas and knowledge that there has been between our two nations throughout history.

It has been a fascinating two way street with Britain bestowing on Ireland our system of common law, parliamentary tradition, independent civil service, gracious Georgian architecture, love of English literature and our obsession with the Premiership. Conversely, Britain greatly benefitted from the Irish genius of the likes of — Edmund Burke, the Duke of Wellington, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stuart Parnell, Maria Edgeworth, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and even Father Ted. Indeed, it was Shaw who wryly observed that:

“England had conquered Ireland, so there was nothing for it but to come over and conquer England.”

However, even Shaw might not have dared to imagine that this cultural conquest would come in time to include rugby and cricket.

The Irish in Britain and the British in Ireland both as individuals and communities, have made an invaluable contribution to both our homelands while also cementing the links between us.

Today those links provide the foundation for a thriving economic relationship. As close trade and investment partners and as partners in the European Union, Britain and Ireland are essential to each other’s economic wellbeing. It is imperative that we work fluently together to promote the conditions that stimulate prosperity and opportunity for all of our people.

It is only right that on this historic visit we should reflect on the difficult centuries which have brought us to this point. Inevitably where there are the colonisers and the colonised, the past is a repository of sources of bitter division. The harsh facts cannot be altered nor loss nor grief erased but with time and generosity, interpretations and perspectives can soften and open up space for new accommodations.

Yesterday, Your Majesty, you visited our Garden of Remembrance and laid a wreath there in honour of the sacrifice and achievement of those who fought against Britain for Irish independence. Today at Islandbridge, just as we did at the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines in 1998, we commemorated together the thousands of Irishmen who gave their lives in British uniform in the Great War.

As the first citizen of Ireland, like my fellow countrymen and women, I am deeply proud of Ireland’s difficult journey to national sovereignty. I am proud of how we have used our independence to build a republic which asserts the religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities not just of all its citizens but of all human beings. I am particularly proud of this island’s peace-makers who having experienced first-hand the appalling toxic harvest of failing to resolve old hatreds and political differences, rejected the perennial culture of conflict and compromised enough to let a new future in.

The Good Friday Agreement represented a fresh start and committed us all to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of future relationships. Under the Agreement, unionism and nationalism were accorded equal recognition as political aspirations and philosophies. Northern Ireland’s present status within the United Kingdom was solemnly recognised, as was the option for a united Ireland if that secures the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

The collegial and cooperative relationship between the British and Irish Governments was crucial to the success of the Peace Process and we can thank the deepening engagement between us as equal partners in the European Union for the growth of friendship and trust. The Governments’ collaborative efforts to bring peace and power-sharing to Northern Ireland have yielded huge dividends for the peoples of these two islands.

W.B. Yeats once wrote in another context that “peace comes dropping slow.”

The journey to peace has been cruelly slow and arduous but it has taken us to a place where hope thrives and the past no longer threatens to overwhelm our present and our future. The legacy of the Good Friday Agreement is already profound and encouraging. We all of us have a duty to protect, nurture and develop it.

Your Majesty, from our previous conversations I know of your deep support for the peace process and your longing to see relationships between our two countries sustained on a template of good neighbourliness.

Your visit here is an important sign – among a growing number of signs – that we have embarked on the fresh start envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement. Your visit is a formal recognition of what has, for many years, been a reality – that Ireland and Britain are neighbours, equals, colleagues and friends. Though the seas between us have often been stormy, we have chosen to build a solid and enduring bridge of friendship between us and to cross it to a new, a happier future.

Your Majesty, your Royal Highness it is in that spirit of mutual respect and warm friendship, it is in faith in that future, that I offer you the traditional warm Irish welcome – cead mile failte – one hundred thousand welcomes.

I now invite you, distinguished guests, to stand and join me in a toast:

To the health and happiness of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness;

To the well-being and prosperity of the people of Britain;

To the cause of peace and reconciliation on this island;

And to continued friendship and kinship between the peoples of Ireland and Britain.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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  • A very good speech. The queens visit is turning out to be the Presidents greatest achievement. Respect.

  • The President oscillates between Britain and Ireland, the states, and Britain and Ireland, the islands. I’m not impressed by such obfuscation.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    She could of course mentioned more recent and in many much more important cultural icons such as The Smiths, The Pogues, Oasis. Even the Beatles.

    But then sycophancy to royalty was never too high on any of their lists.

  • Reader

    Tochais Síoraí: She could of course mentioned more recent…
    You left out Terry Wogan and Graham Norton.

  • Neville Bagnall

    The state dinner speeches are the capstone to the visit, just as the visit is the capstone to the McAleese Presidency. I congratulate her on that, but more than that, I congratulate her on the full work of her Presidency.

    Its amazing to think that it is nearly the full double term of her Presidency since that day in Messines. Yet from all reports, throughout that time, she and Dr. McAleese have continued to build the bridges they set out to construct.

    I’ll admit that the nature of her nomination and some aspects of the election left a sour taste in my mouth at the start of her term, but like her predecessors, she has served with distinction and enhanced the Office she has held. I can only hope the next holder does as well.

    I know the Presidency as an institution of the Republic will never win much affection from the unionist population on the Island, but I hope at least it has won and maintains their respect. I hope it has won the affection of all the nationalists on the Island.

    In many ways the modern Presidency seems a world away from the institution I grew up with. Yet what seems to me to be an a more visible, enhanced and distinct role is entirely too fragile. I hope the electorate and Office holders never allow it to shrivel again.

  • socaire

    Would it be curmudgeonly, among all this sycophancy, to mention Queenie’s troops stationed in the north eastern counties of this country or will we draw a line in the sand now that we’re all buddies. Disrespect.

  • Alias

    Despite the nauseating hype and nonsense, the reality of the visit is very simple: the Sovereign could not visit a state that made a claim to her sovereign territory. When that state gave up its claim to British territory, thanks to the machinations of Her Majesty’s security services, the queen could pop by for a visit. It is the victor being on good terms with the defeated. There is no more to it than that.

    As for McAleese’s codswallop about the GFA in her speech, Irish nationalism is not given parity of esteem with British nationalism within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalism is rendered illegitimate, and unequal anational rights are legitimised. The right to self-determination remains with the British state and the British nation. The British nation is sovereign, and the Irish nation is not, with the Irish nation in the United Kingdom agreeing that it has no national rights (i.e. no right to national self-determination) and that that formerly disputed right properly belongs to the British nation and the British state. So one nation now has legitimised national rights, and the other nation now has an aspiration. A right, by definition and by law, is not subject to the discretion of others whereas an aspiration is.

    Lastly, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 allowed for unity by consent, so there is no change there either.

    McAleese has turned Áras an Uachtaráin into a guest house for pimps, drug-pushers, extortionists, and murderers. She has sytematically demeaned and disgraced that office. The lasting legacy of this truely awful woman will be immunity for the pimps that she has legitimised and continued brutalisation of the women they earn their profits from since neither state will now act against that scum lest such action embarrass the political elite who have irresponsibly legitimised them.

  • Alias

    Completely Over The Top! there is only one thing to say to you: Calm down dear….queen will be gone tomorrow and you can return to the more familiar ground of haranguing the EU they must be feeling neglected by now. Btw you really are a little Irelander aren’t you.

  • socaire

    Seems pretty close to the mark, Alias

  • JR

    A fine speech if I do say so. I have always admired Mary McAleese. I think she has been a great president.

  • carl marks

    socaire, Alias .
    the wars over there were no winners just a lot of dead and hurt people, the queens visit is the sort of thing that grown up countrys do to set the agenda for sorting out their differences its called diplomacy.

  • socaire

    No Carl. The war is not over. This time around the usual side won again. When Paddy regroups, he’ll try again as he has always done.The British Queen didn’t mention withdrawing her troops, then?

  • Democracy can hardly be called slower than murder and mayhem. I think democracy is working, apart from the fascist few who apparently seem unable to think beyond ‘B’, with no bloodshed!

  • carl marks

    great news 20 years from now its back on again .We are going to have to hope the dasterdaly brits bring back a prod goverment for a prod people rampant discrimination mayb we can get then to break up a few civil rights marchs your going to need something to get the people behind you to drive albion out.
    i think they have learned their lesson most of the unionists have and know were not going back time have changed come on change with it or you wil be like roaring jim trying to start a fight nobody wants.

  • Reader

    socaire: The British Queen didn’t mention withdrawing her troops, then?
    UK troops on UK soil. As agreed in the Good Friday Agreement. I’m fairly sure President McAleese was a supporter of the GFA, and she certainly speaks favourably of it in her speech.
    Could you at least acknowledge that you are glad of the presence of the bomb disposal squads?

  • latcheeco

    Your argument needs to be a bit more sophisticated than that old canard. Was every unionist who opposed the GFA also a fan of sheer bloody murder or does that smear only apply to one side?

    Lots of people enjoyed the visit and in their exuberance are losing the run of themselves, but here is the sad reality and pretending everything is now hunkydory won’t fix it: A half dozen disaffected, discarded, and disillusioned teenage rickles of bones on a corner in Kilwilkie will always ( sooner or later) trump civil service speech writers and cavalcades for historical relevance.

    The president and the queen told everybody the wallpaper is lovely but said little about fixing the crack behind it.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I just read McAleese’s speech and I think it’s a petty-minded disgrace and a kind of dog-whistle insult to Ulster British people that only we pick up. But we do get it.

    Talking of Irish-British connections, she says:
    “The contemporary British-Irish relationship is multifaceted and strongly underpinned by the most important connection of all — people and families.
    Large numbers of British born people live here in Ireland and many more of our citizens have British backgrounds, ancestry and identity. In Britain, those of Irish birth, descent or identity are numbered in millions.”

    Now, where are we, the million or so British people living on the island of Ireland, in this account? One might have expected us to feature in any account of the British connection with Ireland. The only possibilities seem to be:
    1. she means us when she says “British born people” who live in Ireland – but the tone suggests she means mainland British people who have emigrated to the Republic.
    2. she means us when she says “many more of our citizens have British backgrounds, ancestry and identity.” If so, she’s then making us Irish citizens against our will.

    She then goes on to refer to ‘Ireland”s relations with ‘Britain’ throughout, as if Northern Ireland were not part of Britain. Britain is usually used as a synonym for the whole UK, not just the Great Britain bit of it. Her use of Britain to mean mainland Britain once again shows her failure to recognise the Britishness of most people in Northern Ireland.

    At best, this is cack-handed; at worst an example of the failure of old-style nationalists like McAleese to accept Britishness in Ireland. It felt like she was talking over our heads towards a Britain that, in her eyes, does not include us.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Another McAleese howler: “Though the seas between us have often been stormy …”
    Um, last time I went to the Republic of Ireland from the Queen’s home country, I drove across the land border we share. Not too much sea involved.

  • Alias

    MU, Ireland refers to the state, while ‘island of Ireland’ refers to the island, so the former is used politically and latter geographically. She is referring to the 100,000 or so British-born people who live in Ireland. Since most of them are retired here and availing of state entitements, it’s probably just as well that she doesn’t mention the cost of this migration to the Irish taxpayers!

    The near absolute majority of people in Ireland are unaware that the British state extended sovereignty over vital cultural, economic and political institutions of the Irish state in a treaty signed between the two states as a result of the Whitehall designed GFA. Perhaps one in 10,000 would be aware that Ireland no longer has sovereignty over the national language, for example, and that the queen as The Sovereign now has a veto over how that language is progressed.

    McAleese is simply promoting the spiel that ‘sharing’ Irish sovereignty with the UK is fine and dandy because a lot of other things are shared too, including the people. We shouldn’t, however, share sovereignty with every state that contains an Irish disapora, but only with those states that we trade with. Besides, if we don’t, Gerry and Marty will get the guns out again so we best do what the elite degree. And so it goes. She is preparing the ground in advance of the muppets ever being told or figuring out what exactly they voted for…

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    So after many years of the peace process and appeasing NI folk culminating in the present successful visit of Her Majesty Elizabeth II to the Republic of Ireland, we still have pedantic, disgruntled and unhappy Unionist folk. FFS!

    Maybe it’s a case of sour grapes instead? Was it really because the tour was a great success that some Unionist folk are unhappy. Was it because Her Majesty enjoyed this particular visit to this part of Ireland?

    There’s no pleasing some Unionist folk! …… and who really cares now! PFO

  • Alias

    Right, it’s not like she ever compared them to Nazis or anything that disgusting, so why would they be suspicous of her motives, eh? *rolls eyes*

  • jonno99

    “You just can’t please all the people all of the time”. I doubt the Irish president intended any offensive slight whatsoever toward unionists.

    The fact is most people in GB, or anywhere else, when referring to Ireland mean the island of Ireland. If they want to be specific then they say NI or ROI or North of Ireland, Free State, 26 counties, six counties etc.

  • Reader

    latcheeco: Reader, Your argument needs to be a bit more sophisticated than that old canard. Was every unionist who opposed the GFA also a fan of sheer bloody murder or does that smear only apply to one side?
    “canard”? I think my comment was accurate and honest – here is the relevant quote from the GFA: “the reduction of the numbers and role of the Armed Forces deployed in Northern Ireland to levels compatible with a normal peaceful society;” And I am fairly sure we are, if anything, below our share of the UK garrision levels.
    I have no certainty what your second sentence was about. People supported or opposed the GFA for all sorts of reasons. The point is, it passed. Socaire can’t expect to get a load of traction by accusing a known supporter of accepting one of its provisions.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Yes I know ‘Ireland’ is used by the Republic as the official name of the country these days (though it wasn’t always so). This is annoying if you’re from Northern Ireland and not part of the country “Ireland” – it makes us feel like we don’t count (and this may have been the original political intent behind using “Ireland” as the Republic’s official name). But fine, just so long as its President doesn’t pretend it really is the whole island, which would be factually wrong and highly disrespectful to her guest, Northern Ireland’s head of state. The thing is, in her speech, the constant references to “Ireland” and “Britain” made it sound like she was talking about the whole island with “Ireland”. In a speech on British-Irish links that is supposed to be part of a new era of mutual respect and equality, this kind of arrogant ignoring of the British population in Northern Ireland is breath-taking, especially from someone with her previous on the subject. If it came from a Southern politician you could write it off as thoughtless. But she’s from Belfast and is, like me, a lawyer by training – she knows exactly what she’s saying.

    But amidst the glow of the successful visit, which was otherwise a fantastic thing, she’s got away without so much as a bad word in the press. Even Kate Hoey praised her last night on This Week.

  • Alias

    Okay, you forced me to re-read her speech (waves fist), and I now see your point.

    There is no reference at all to the British folks in NI when she refers to the relationship between British and Irish people or their respective states. She regards British people as originating in GB, not the UK (as in NI). That is where she directs her toast: “to continued friendship and kinship between the peoples of Ireland and Britain.”

    That’s not something that I would have picked up on; but now that you have pointed it out, it’s a fairly blatant omission.

  • latcheeco

    Humble apologies if I was wrong and misread your post, but your final swipe at Socaire seemed to intimate that if you were against the British Army being stationed in the North you must ergo be in favor of bombs, a suggestion which is at best lazy.

  • latcheeco

    Mainland Ulsterman,
    Don Quixote famously saw the world as he would like it to be rather than how it was, but even he didn’t see the world as other people thought it was.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Sorry, you may need to explain the Cervantes reference, not sure I get your point?