17 May 2011

Queen makes historic Ireland visit amid IED threat

As the Queen begins her historic state visit to Ireland, Carl Dinnen in Dublin writes that the majority are pleased to see her there – but those who are not will be trying to make themselves heard.

Queen makes historic visit to Ireland (Getty)

The Queen has arrived in Ireland for a hugely historic visit, which both the British and Irish governments hope will herald a new era in relations between Ireland and Britain.

But the visit has not been without its opponents and will take place amid tight security.

Queen Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to visit for 100 years, and the first since Ireland gained independence. A huge safety operation has been put in place to protect the Queen, who will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, including land, air and sea patrols, costing an estimated 30 million euro (£26.2m).

Earlier, bomb disposal experts made safe a device, which was found in Maynooth, near Dublin, after Irish police found it in the luggage compartment of a bus. A controlled explosion was carried out in the early hours of the morning.

The remains of the device have been handed to the Irish police for investigation.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described the visit as premature and insensitive, and Monday saw a bomb threat by dissident Republicans in central London, as last-minute preparations for the Queen’s visit took place in Ireland.

Majority back the visit - but not all 
There are forty shades of green opinion on the Queen's visit to Ireland, with no clear division down the middle, writes Channel 4 News Reporter Carl Dinnen, in Dublin.

They range from the majority opinion ("Isn't it lovely to have her here") through Sinn Fein ("This isn't the right time") to the Real IRA ("She's a wanted war criminal"). But it doesn't feel like a polarising issue. Even those who are firmly in favour understand the feelings of those who are against.

Dublin felt strange ahead of her arrival. It was very quiet, a lot of roads were closed and a lot of people had either left their cars at home or just weren't even bothering to come into the city. Many of the 8,000 police who are involved were on show. As we stood in College Green the bomb squad flew past, sirens blazing, to a reported suspect device in Fairview, Dublin.

A device was discovered in Maynooth, near Dublin last night with a hoax alert in the city earlier this morning. The Maynooth device may or may not be related to the visit, we don't know. There have been a number of pipe bombs discovered in recent weeks relating to criminal, as opposed to paramilitary, activity. But certainly those opposed to this visit will be trying to make themselves seen and heard today. It will be interesting to see how many of them there are, and how well they succeed.

‘Extraordinary moment’

Irish President Mary McAleese told RTE: “I think it is an extraordinary moment in Irish history.

“A phenomenal sign and signal of the peace process and absolutely the right moment for us to welcome onto Irish soil Her Majesty the Queen.”

Prime Minister David Cameron will join the Queen on Wednesday as part of the trip, and she will be accompanied throughout by Foreign Secretary William Hague, as part of normal practice.

Queen makes historic visit to Ireland (Reuters)

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Queen will receive a “warm welcome” from the people of Ireland, and the public will have opportunities to meet her.

Symbolism of the visit

The Royal tour will take in Dublin and the counties of Cork, Kildare and Tipperary, and will include politically significant sites, laden with symbolism, such as Croke Park, the scene of a massacre by British troops.

The start of the visit falls on the anniversary of atrocities which claimed the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles. 34 men, women and children, including an unborn baby, were killed in no-warning explosions in Dublin and Monaghan on May 17, 1974.

The victims’ families and survivors of a series of bombs have written an open letter to the Queen to mark her arrival in Ireland and will hold their annual wreath-laying ceremony a few hundred yards from where the Queen will commemorate Irish rebels in the Garden of Remembrance.

Read more: Queen visit: largest security operation in Ireland’s history