Queen offers sympathy but no apology in State dinner speech
The only public address the Queen will make during her four-day visit
The Queen of England spoke in Irish at Dublin Castle as she offered sincere sympathy but no apology to the victims of centuries of unrest and violence in Ireland.
The Queen opened her speech at a state dinner in her honor with five words in Irish: “A Uachtaráin agus a chairde.”
The phrase means ‘President and Friends’ and opened an 850 word address to a room packed with politicians, dignitaries and special guests from both sides of the border who gave the Queen a standing ovation afterwards.
In the only public speech she will make during her four day visit to Ireland - the first by an English monarch in a hundred years - Elizabeth II remarked on the gestures of goodwill and renewed friendship prevalent during her visit.
She spoke of the complexity of the relationship with Ireland and England over the centuries and the progress already made during her trip.
“Madam President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance,” she said.
“Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation - of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.”
Addressing the painful elements of Anglo-Irish history, she offered her own condolences, sympathy and support to victims from all sides of the political and religious divide and urged both nations to look to the future together.
“Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign,” added Queen Elizabeth.
“It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.
“These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families.
“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.
“With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.
“But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us.
“No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.”
Irish President Mary McAleese, who hosted the State dinner in the Queen’s honor, was praised for her part in the peace progress as were all those who contributed to the Good Friday agreement.
The Queen continued: “I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process, and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the Gardaí, and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.
“Taken together, their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.
“For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.
“The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.”
The visiting monarch concluded by stressing the close relationship between Ireland and those of Irish extraction living in Britain and urged peace and harmony between the two nations.
“We have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of,” she said.
“So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbors should always be.”
Speaking before the Queen, Irish President McAleese said the Royal visit was the ‘culmination’ of the success of the Peace Process.
“This is an acknowledgement that whilst the past cannot be changed, there has been a decision made to change the future,” said President McAleese.
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