For the first time since the Republic of Ireland gained independence in the 1920s, the Queen may visit Dublin next year. It is shocking yet completely understandable that no British monarch has ever visited Ireland, even though the Queen has visited over 100 countries during a reign of 57 years. Only recently have relations between the UK and the Republic become positive and safe enough for a royal visit to even be considered.
The British army killed 26 unarmed protesters on Bloody Sunday in 1972, leading people to burn down the British Embassy in Dublin and in 1979 one of the Queen’s relatives, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb. Clearly, for most of the 20th century, it was impossible for the Queen to visit Ireland safely, however through the work of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in the 1990s, relations improved dramatically, resulting in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland Correspondent:
Such was their friendship, few would have been surprised if they ended up going on holiday together. Given the long and deep historical difficulties between their respective countries, that was quite a feat.
However, if the Queen’s visit does go ahead next year, perhaps the history books will show that the current British prime minister David Cameron also played a crucial role.
His speech to the House of Commons about the recent Bloody Sunday report, and his acceptance of British Army wrongdoing on that day, went down extremely well in Dublin. At the same time, he helped to dispel some of the historic Irish antagonism to Tory prime ministers.
Sinn Fein oppose the visit and it is likely there will be demonstrations, however Prince Charles has already visited Ireland and Irish president Mary McAleese has met the Queen before, so clearly progress is being made in getting the visit to go ahead next year.