19 May 2011

Queen speaks of ‘regret’ during Ireland visit

The Queen offers her “deep sympathy” for those who suffered as a result of the troubled past and “regrettable reality” of Britain and Ireland but stopped short of an apology.

Queen speaks of 'regret' during Ireland visit (Getty)

As part of the historic trip to Ireland – the first by a British monarch for 100 years – the Queen made a powerful and reconciliatory speech at Dublin Castle aiming to heal old wounds.

After visiting Croke Park, the scene of a British massacre of 14 Irish civilians in 1920, the Queen attended a state banquet at the castle where she spoke of the “troubled past” shared by the two nations and the need to remember all those whose lives have been affected.

She said the relationship between Britain and Ireland had not always been straightforward but stopped short of delivering an apology for Britain’s actions in Ireland, saying looking back both nations could have acted differently.

Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon said an apology was never really an option because “sorry” is a policy word, and “the Queen does ceremonial, not policy”.

To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. The Queen

But the Queen did perhaps go further than ever before in expressing regret for the “painful legacy” of the Troubles.

‘A sad and regrettable reality’

The Queen, whose cousin Lord Mountbatten was blown up by the IRA off the County Sligo coast in 1979, said: “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 or their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.”

Read more on the Queen's Ireland visit: 'we are ready now to move on' 

‘New chapter’

Irish President Mary McAleese said a new chapter of partnership and friendship had opened between the two countries. She added the visit is the culmination of the success of the Northern Ireland peace process.

She said: “This evening we celebrate a new chapter in our relationship that may still be a work in progress, but happily has also become a work of progress, of partnership and friendship.”

The Queen is halfway through her trip to Ireland, where she has also visited memorial sites for men and women who died fighting for Irish independence, and for the 49,000 Irish soldiers killed in the First World War.

There have been some protests over her presence, and a viable bomb device was found on the first day of her visit – but a heavy police presence has seen the visit go smoothly so far.