The Queen’s visit to the Republic has received almost wall to wall coverage. It has also elicited almost universal praise. Almost everyone in the RoI seems to have been delighted by the exercise apart from the dissidents: even Gerry Adams whilst not reversing his claim that the visit was premature, praised her remarks.
There is little doubt that the Queen will have enjoyed the visit: she seems to have an ability to be genuinely interested in the places she visits and the people she meets. It is said that she reports her driving force to be what she regards as her “duty” but she also seems to be actually interested in other people’s lives. She seems to have delighted both the dignitaries and the more ordinary people she has met.
Throughout the visit the terms historic and groundbreaking were used repeatedly. At one level of course it was historic: it was the first visit of the UK’s head of state to our nearest neighbour. However, amongst many unionists it did not seem that exciting. Personally I was only marginally interested. Sorry for the personal nature of this but whilst not a republican in the UK sense I am not a passionate monarchist: I tend to the belief that Christ not Man is King. However, most of the other unionists I did a (highly unscientific) straw poll of had relatively similar views.
The Queen has of course visited a great number of countries during her long reign including ones where the legacy of British rule is far from uncontroversial. She has visited India, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa; in all of whose association with the UK there has been violence.
To unionists the visit of the Queen to Northern Ireland is a moderately big deal but few would feel that it should take over all the normal news outlets nor be discussed and analysed in minute detail as this visit to the RoI has been. That is not to say that such coverage and analysis is wrong or inappropriate just that for unionists the whole episode is not that major an issue. It is clearly a major issue and one to be celebrated in the Republic and it also seems to have gone down well with many nationalists in Northern Ireland. However, despite most of unionism’s senior politicians being present during at least some of the occasions it would be a mistake to regard this as that major an issue to unionists. Benign or mildly pleased indifference would probably be the main emotions. Whilst Gregory Campbell may have spoken for some in complaining about the Queen laying a wreath to the IRA members of the 1920s more unionists will probably have been disgusted at the presence of Jackie McDonald of the UDA. McDonald claimed to be there as the representative of working class loyalists. Unfortunately for McDonald, however, he is not the representative of any group of people apart from an organised criminal conspiracy: the unionist working class having at this election yet again rejected his political fellow travellers. Sadly despite flaunting his membership of a proscribed organisation he was not arrested at the border. These were, however, the only significant flies in the ointment of the unionist mild pleasure / indifference.
The Queen’s visit seems quite clearly to have delighted many in the RoI which will in no way be displeasing to unionists. It seems to have pleased some Northern nationalists: again something which will in no way annoy unionists. Finally it has annoyed some republicans in ways they seem to find difficult to articulate without mopery and whataboutery: a further bonus for unionists. Overall, however, to most of us it is just not that big a deal: our head of state has visited a friendly foreign neighbour; that is really about it.