God save us, it’s the Queen
For the first time in nearly a century, a ruling British monarch has set foot on Irish soil. Queen Elizabeth II, decked out in bright green from head to foot and looking for all the world like a well-tailored leprechaun, today began a four-day visit to a country her royal predecessors spent untold amounts of money, manpower, manipulation, mayhem and malevolence to subjugate.
A spate of bomb threats, security nightmares for the police force and military, lots of booming voices of protest emanating from the pubs of Dublin and other communities around the Republic of Ireland certainly wasn’t much of a welcome. Quite the opposite of the sort of silly adulation showered on one of her grandsons during his recent nuptials.
The Queen began her official whirlwind tour — the first by a sitting Brit ruler since Ireland gained its independence in 1917 — by shaking hands (above) with Irish President Mary McAleese in front of the Aras An Uachtarain, then moved inside to be greeted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and sign the visitors’ book. Prince Philip, every bit the Royal Afterthought as always, jotted his name below hers.
(For those unfamiliar with Irish terminology and surprised that not everything there is in English — it is a bilingual country, with Gaelic much in evidence, “Aras An Uachtarain” is the name of the president’s mansion, and “Taoiseach” means “chief” and is the title held by the prime minister.)
Although this is QEII’s first trip to Ireland, she and the President have met elsewhere numerous times and chatted animatedly in public view. The role of President is largely ceremonial in Ireland, but has its moments as a public relations force. Such McAleese predecessors as Mary Robinson have been able to lobby other nations for trade improvements and such things from the bully pulpit. So, it will be interesting to see how McAleese’s public demeanor toward QEII this week will be cited as a negative when the next national election is held in October.