Queen Elizabeth contributed to the building of bridges rather than the creation of barriers in Ireland, Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said on the day of her funeral.
The Primate Eamon Martin’s words reflected similar expressions of Ireland’s political leaders, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
The Archbishop was at the Queen’s state funeral on Monday alongside other church leaders, including Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell, moderator of the Presbyterian Church the Right Reverend John Kirkpatrick, and president of the Methodist Church the Reverend David Nixon. Also in attendance were President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Archbishop Martin said the Queen took “very courageous steps” and risks for peace in Ireland.
He told RTE Radio on Monday morning, “We all remember her visit to Ireland in 2011 and her very courageous steps in Enniskillen in 2012.”
On that visit, the Queen became the first of the royal family to enter a Catholic Church. The occasion was the 25th anniversary of an IRA bomb that killed 12 and injured 63 on Remembrance Sunday.
Archbishop Martin also recalled the Queen’s historic meeting with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness in 2014.
He said, “It was a very difficult time for her, and indeed for Martin McGuinness, to take those steps, to model that we are now in the business of building bridges rather than barriers between each other.” It was important that the achievements were not forgotten.
Taoiseach Martin spoke to the BBC about the royal visit to Ireland in 2011. He said, “We believe that Queen Elizabeth, through her authentic actions by that speech in Dublin Castle, in many ways opened up a new chapter in British-Irish relations and closed an earlier chapter.”
Coveney, who was not at the funeral, spoke from Cork to CNN's Christiane Amanpour and told her many in Ireland were saddened by the queen’s passing.
He said, “We know the significance of what she achieved as head of state. She chose to come to Ireland in 2011, which was the first visit of a monarch since Irish independence. That was a significant gesture. She wanted to do it, we know that.
“And Ireland was nervous about that visit; we weren’t quite sure about how Irish people would respond.
“But from the very moment she stepped off the plane, dressed in green, full of smiles, and the generosity and respect with which she addressed the complexity of British/Irish history, with pain and trauma at different times, I think won over a nation next door, here in Ireland.
“And ever since then, I think people in Ireland have held her in great affection.”
Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, was also at Monday’s funeral.
"Today I respectfully join leaders from Britain, Ireland & the international community at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II as she is laid to rest,” she tweeted.
"It is a sad day for her family who mourn her loss, and all those of a British identity from across our community who grieve also.”
*This column first appeared in the September 21 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.