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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Anti-IRA figures not on royal list

Peace activists overlooked for Queen's visit in favour of TV personalities and celebrities

Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00

LOCK AND LOAD: Irish Defence Forces gunner Robert O'Carroll checks a remote operated .50 machine gun on a light tactical
armoured vehicle beside a Giraffe radar system, which will be deployed during the Queen's visit. Photo: Frank McGrath
LOCK AND LOAD: Irish Defence Forces gunner Robert O'Carroll checks a remote operated .50 machine gun on a light tactical armoured vehicle beside a Giraffe radar system, which will be deployed during the Queen's visit. Photo: Frank McGrath

The British and Irish governments have snubbed prominent anti-terrorist figures who fearlessly campaigned against the Provisional IRA.

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The guest list includes such celebrity personalities as Amanda Brunker and Lorraine Keane, as well as television presenter Terry Wogan, chef Rachel Allen, Nama developer Harry Crosbie and model Erin O'Connor.

In marked contrast, leading peace campaigners such as Chris Hudson MBE and Barbara Fitzgerald CBE, and media figures such as Kevin Myers, Eoghan Harris and Ruth Dudley Edwards, have not been invited to any official events relative to the visit this week of Queen Elizabeth.

The British Embassy in Dublin, which is hosting the centrepiece event at the National Conference Centre on Dublin Quays, has defended the guest list. This will be a concert featuring the Chieftains and Mary Byrne, amongst others, and hosted by Gay Byrne.

"We wanted to reflect the range of sporting, cultural and business links between Britain and Ireland," said Richard Cushnie of the British Embassy.

Guest lists for most other events are organised by the individual hosts, which include Trinity College and the GAA.

The State dinner for the Queen will be held in Dublin Castle and hosted by the President. The Department of the Taoiseach is involved in arrangements for this and some of the other events.

The arrangements are such that every government minister will get to attend at least one function at which the Queen will be present.

But many high-profile figures have been overlooked for the historic event, the first official visit of a British monarch since King George V in 1912.

Leading peace campaigner Chris Hudson last night expressed "amazement" that many of those directly involved in the peace process had not been invited to any of the official functions surrounding the Queen's visit, which begins on Tuesday.

"I remember [the late Progressive Unionist Party leader] David Ervine saying to me 'remember, when this is over other people will be collecting Nobel prizes and we'll just have to go for a pint'," said the Peace Train founder yesterday.

"What seems to have happened is that the politicians take charge of things -- they delivered the political process . . . but they didn't deliver the peace process," said the former Communications Works Union official, who is now Rev Chris Hudson of the All Souls Unitarian Church near Queen's University in Belfast.

"Official Ireland has never given us any recognition for anything we've done -- and it doesn't look as if it wants to start now."

Rev Hudson, who comes from Blackrock, Co Dublin, put himself in danger by his work with hard-line Loyalists in the North. He succeeded in bringing David Ervine on board the peace process, an event which transformed Loyalist attitudes to Dublin.

But despite being awarded an MBE by Prince Charles and on behalf of the Queen, he and many other who were directly involved in bringing warring communities together have not been invited to any of the high-profile events at the conference centre, Dublin Castle and Memorial Gardens.

"I didn't want it for myself, but an invitation to some of these historic events might have been some modest recognition for the people who created the space for the peace process to happen," Rev Hudson said.

Author and journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards said she was disappointed that Kevin Myers and Eoghan Harris had not been invited to the event.

"Both have shown immense courage over the years -- especially in relation to fearless denunciation of paramilitarism," she said.

Mr Myers was a particularly surprising omission given his almost-singlehanded role in making it acceptable to honour the thousands of young Irishmen who died in the World War One.

A source close to Mr Myers said yesterday: "He is not so much disappointed as angry. It stinks to high heaven that those who took the heat when it was far hotter than it is now in relation to the paramilitaries have been snubbed. As a country we cannot even get these small things right."

Members of the public will also be kept away from the Queen during the royal visit. Security arrangements yesterday included a plan to keep all members of the public away from any area in which the Queen will be present, which will be heavily cordoned off.

Sunday Independent

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