Queen’s Visit

Posted By: May 26, 2011

Letters to the Editor
Irish News
Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jim Gibney’s column pretty much reflected my own attitude, “ Queens Visit Showed Mc Aleese at Her Best” ( May 26).
I fully understand the valid reasons why some protested the Queen’s visit – and those reasons should not be dismissed or disrespected.
My own attitude was that I felt a bit more secure about the visit because Mary Mc Aleese is President. Had someone like, say Garret FitzGerald been President (not meaning to speak ill of the dead ) — or some other southerner not noted for standing up to British injustice in Northern Ireland – I would not have felt as secure about the visit.
Now some may say that is a superficial distinction because the Queen is still the Queen no matter who receives her on Irish soil: that the Queen is still the Commander of the British Armed Forces, that the visit was on the anniversary of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, that the anti-Catholic and sectarian Act of Settlement 1701, is still the foundation stone of the Royal Family, barring as it does a Catholic from being monarch or even marrying a Catholic… etc. , etc.

Still in all, there is the reality of The Good Friday Agreement. ( Only Republican dissidents and extreme Orangemen claim The Agreement makes no difference).And with regards to the North , context is everything . By accepting the Irish Peace Process, one must also accept that certain protocols will naturally follow. And I say this as the one who lead the protest against the Queen’s visit to Boston in 1976, as explained in my recently published Memoirs, “ My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland”.

Nonetheless, the fact that Mary Mc Aleese is President meant that it would be clear to all that there would be no “southern forelock tugging”, that she would meet the Queen as an equal, that she would be seen as representing the Irish nation, not just three quarters of it, i.e. 26 Counties.
Moreover, as to the actual visit itself, the sight of the Queen paying her respect to all who sacrificed their lives for Irish freedom has to mean something very profound – granting the significance the British attach to such solemn actions by the Queen.
Yes, indeed, we must continue with unfinished business – and I certainly shall on Capitol Hill – but we are missing a profound paradigm shift if we spurn the Queen’s visit as meaningless or harmful to the Irish cause. It is not. And I give Her Majesty a lot of respect and credit for that.

Fr.Sean Mc Manus