Saturday 25 October 2014

Queen: 'We will remember our past, but we shall no longer allow our past to ensnare our future'

Lise Hand in London and Catherine Wylie

Published 08/04/2014 | 20:22

Prime Minster David Cameron welcomes the President of the Republic of Ireland Michael D Higgins to Downing Street. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Michael D Higgins, and his wife Sabina Higgins. Photo: Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband (R) greets the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins ahead of a State Banquet on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Top names from Irish and British sport, society and politics mingled with members of the Royal family at the State Banquet to mark the visit of President Michael D Higgins this evening.

And in another historic first, the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness sat a mere 15 places away from Prince Philip and the Queen sitting opposite the Duke of Edinburgh, close to the centre of the 160-foot long table which seated all 160 guests.

Among the guests at the dinner in the stunning St George's Hall were the Taoiseach who was seated next to prime minister David Cameron. The Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was placed next to the Queen and Princess Anne.


Daniel Day-Lewis (4th from bottom) attends a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President. Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Also present were former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin who played a key role in the Queen's 2011 visit to the Republic, and Ireland's rugby hero Brian O'Driscoll and his wife Amy Huberman, actor Daniel Day Lewis and his wife Rebecca Miller, Dame Judi Dench, Terry Wogan, Garry Hynes, former British prime minister John Major, North's First Minister Peter Robinson.

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Cornwall (2nd left) attend a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (3rd left) at Windsor Castle during the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President. Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Martin McGuinness was seated between civil liberties leader Ms Shami Chakrabati and Sir Paul Purse, Nobel Laureate and geneticist.

This evening, the 160 guests will dine on a fillet of Isle of Gigha Halibat with young leeks and fine herb sauce for starters, followed by tournedos of Windsor estate beef with wild mushrooms and watercress purée for the main course.


St George's Hall, Windsor Castle

Guests will be served purple sprouting brocolli with hollandaise sauce, baked onions stuffed with parmesan and bulgar wheat alongside their main course.

Finally, for dessert, guests will have a vanilla ice cream bombe with a Balmoral redcurrant centre.

There are several wines being served including Ridgeview Cuvée merrier geoscience 2009, Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 2005 Chanson Pere et fils, Chateau Leovolle-Barton 1990 2eme Cru Classe St Julien, Louis Roederer Carte Blanche NV and Quinta do Nov Vintage port 1996.

The Queen said during her speech that Britain and Ireland shall "no longer allow our past to ensnare our future".

The banquet is being held at the Queen's home, Windsor Castle, where the President is staying with his wife Sabina.


Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband (R) greets the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In her speech, the Queen said the goal of modern British-Irish relations can be "simply stated".

She said: "It is that we, who inhabit these islands, should live together as neighbours and friends. Respectful of each other's nationhood, sovereignty and traditions.

"Cooperating to our mutual benefit. At ease in each other's company.

"After so much chequered history, the avoidable and regrettable pain of which is still felt by many of us, this goal is now within reach.

"I started by speaking of ten centuries of history. But there is a balance to be struck between looking back at what has happened, and cannot be changed; and looking forward to what could happen, if we have the will and determination to shape it.

"My visit to Ireland, and your visit this week, Mr President, show that we are walking together towards a brighter, more settled future.

"We will remember our past, but we shall no longer allow our past to ensnare our future. This is the greatest gift we can give to succeeding generations."

The Queen also made a witty reference to her appearance in the London 2012 opening ceremony, saying: "And it took someone of Irish descent, Danny Boyle, to get me to jump from a helicopter."

The highly successful state visit to Ireland by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in May 2011 paved the way for the return by President Higgins and makes the attendance of Mr McGuinness at the royals' home, the latest in a series of recent milestones in Anglo-Irish relations.

The Queen said she and the Duke recall their visit to Ireland "with great pleasure".

"We were received warmly wherever we went. Dublin; the city of Cork and its English market; Ireland's historic landmarks like the Rock of Cashel; your people's famous hospitality -- and, of course, Ireland's thoroughbred horses -- all these and much more left a happy and enduring impression.

"But even more pleasing, since then, is that we, the Irish and British, are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends; finally shedding our inhibitions about seeing the best in each other," she said.


Sabina Coyne, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh pose for a photograph ahead of a State Banquet on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The Queen said that as the two nations "enter a period of historical resonance, it is right to look back in remembrance".

She added: "People from Ireland were involved in all the major campaigns and battles of the war. We will remember and honour their contribution and sacrifice, just as we remember our own.

"My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State."

The Queen acknowledged the contribution made by Irish people in Britain.

"Britain has been hugely enriched by the migration of Irishmen and women to these shores. The contribution of Irish people to Britain has reached into every walk of British life," she said.

Adding: "And yet, over the years, many Irish migrants to Britain encountered discrimination and a lack of appreciation.

"Happily, those days are now behind us, and it is widely recognised that Britain is a better place because of the Irish people who live here."

The Queen also made reference to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

"Our two governments will continue to work together in Northern Ireland to support the First and Deputy First Minister and the Executive to advance the peace process and to establish a shared society based on mutual respect and equality of opportunity," she said.

The Queen is wearing the official Diamond Jubilee white silk and lace dress designed by Angela Kelly, and the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia Tiara which has droplets of emeralds.

At the end of her speech the Queen asked guests to rise and drink a toast to the President and Mrs Higgins and "to the health and prosperity of the people of Ireland".

As they did this, the orchestra played the Irish anthem.


Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland (R) attends a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on April 8, 2014 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

In his speech, which featured a few words of Irish, President Higgins made reference to the Queen's historic visit to Ireland, in which she "admirably" did not "shy away from the shadows of the past".

He said: "Your gracious and genuine curiosity, your evident delight in that visit, including its equine dimension, made it very easy for us to express to you and, through you to the British people, the warmth of neighbourly feelings.

"It laid the basis for an authentic and ethical hospitality between our two countries. "Admirably, you chose not to shy away from the shadows of the past, recognising that they cannot be ignored when we consider the relationship between our islands."

President Higgins said her "apt and considered words when you addressed some of the painful moments of our mutual history" were valued.

He said people were "moved" by the Queen's gestures of respect at sites of national historical significance in Ireland. "These memorable moments and these moving words merit our appreciation and, even more, our reciprocity.

"While the past must be respectfully recognised, it must not imperil the potential of the present or the possibilities of the future - ar feidireachtai gan teorainn - our endless possibilities working together," he said.

President Higgins described his visit as "a very visible sign of the warmth and maturity of the relationship between our two countries".

Adding: "It is something to be truly welcomed and celebrated."

He said Ireland and Britain "live in both the shadow and in the shelter of one another, and so it has been since the dawn of history".

He added: "Through conquest and resistance, we have cast shadows on each other, but we have also gained strength from one another as neighbours and, most especially, from the contribution of those who have travelled between our islands in recent decades."

Like the Queen, President Higgins made reference to the "extensive" contribution of Irish men and Irish women to life in Britain. He said: "It runs from building canals, roads and bridges in previous decades, to running major companies in the present, all the while pouring Irish personality and imagination into the English language and its literature."

Nearing the end of his speech, he said: "The shadow of the past has become the shelter of the present.

"While we grieve together for lost lives, we will not let any painful aspect of our shared history deflect us from crafting a future that offers hope and opportunity for the British and Irish people."

President Higgins invited guests to stand and join him in a toast to the health and happiness of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and the people of the UK.

Mr McGuinness stood up and participated in the toast as the orchestra played God Save The Queen.

Further Reading

- A treasure trail: President given guided tour of Windsor by Queen

- Queen's speech at State Banquet in honour of President Michael D Higgins

- President Higgins: 'We can now look at each other through trusting eyes of mutual respect'

- In pictures: President Michael D Higgins' State Visit to Britain

- President Higgins meets Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle 

- First Lady Sabina Higgins wears 100% Irish during historic visit

- Queen Elizabeth rolls out red carpet for historic state visit

- Remembering my great-grandfather and the Irish heroes lost to history

- Eimear's dress rehearsal ahead of big performance

- President hopes visit will strengthen ties with UK


- Ian O’Doherty: Michael D – for when platitudes are just what we need

- Editorial: Visit will help to heal the wounds of history

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