The Queen of England has hailed her country’s long-term friendship with Ireland and expressed the wish that it can provide ‘hope’ for the future.
The British monarch recalled her historic visit to Ireland in her annual televised address on Christmas Day.
The traditional speech was broadcast as her husband Prince Philip recovers in hospital following heart surgery.
Referring to her four day visit to the Republic last May, the Queen spoke of what has been described by observers as an historic year for Anglo-Irish relations.
Queen Elizabeth said that the relationship between the two nations has ‘blossomed’ into a firm friendship over the last year in a seven minute address which was watched by tens of millions all across the UK.
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“This past year has also seen some memorable and historic visits, to Ireland and from America. The spirit of friendship, so evident in both these nations, can fill us all with hope,” said Queen Elizabeth.
“Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long term friendship.
“It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today and so give us hope for tomorrow.”
Her words were accompanied by images from her visit to Ireland, the first time a British monarch had visited the country in a hundred years.
Scenes from the wreath laying service at the Garden of Remembrance – when the Queen bowed her head to Ireland’s patriot dead in a moment of healing between Britain and Ireland – dominated the Irish section of the speech.
This is the first time the Queen has mentioned Anglo-Irish relations in her annual address. Previous mentions of Ireland were confined to the Troubles and the Peace Process.
Tourism bosses on both sides of the Irish border believe the speech will lead to an increase in numbers travelling from Britain in 2012.
Reflecting on a year that saw two of her grandchildren get married, the Queen focussed on family and friendship as two key elements of her speech.
She added: “In this past year my family and I have been inspired by the courage and hope we have seen in so many ways in Britain, in the Commonwealth and around the world.
“We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another.
“The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.”