Thousands will tune in to hear Queen recount her visit
JUST a year ago, it would have been impossible to imagine tens of thousands of Irish households tuning into the broadcast of the Queen's Speech on Christmas Day.
But that now looks more likely than ever, after well-placed sources confirmed Queen Elizabeth's annual address will be dominated by her first public reflections of her successful State visit to Ireland.
It's already well-documented that the monarch, who was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip on the historic four-day trip in May, was thrilled with the warm reception she received here on a gruelling schedule that included visits to Dublin, Kildare, Tipperary and Cork.
In a letter to the Lord Mayor of Cork, she described her visit to the city, where she broke with royal protocol and shook hands with the public after receiving an unexpectedly rousing reception, as "deeply moving".
And according to other reports, she has even privately described the visit -- the first by a British monarch in 100 years -- as one of the highlights of her long reign.
But she will finally get to put into her own words what the significance of the visit meant to her in what will be her 59th Christmas address.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the content of the pre-recorded speech, which is being broadcast on Sky News for the first time, is being kept under wraps until a short trailer is aired on Christmas Eve.
But another well-placed Palace source said the Queen always played a central role in picking the broadcast's themes and that viewers could expect the most upbeat speech in decades, in which she would fondly look back at her visit here.
"It's been the best year in living memory for the royal family, with two royal weddings, Prince Philip's 90th birthday and not least, the historic visit to Ireland.
"It's no secret that the visit to Ireland meant a huge deal to her and she wants to use the speech to reflect on it publicly."
Sky News is expected to include footage originally broadcast on its channel of the main landmarks the royal couple visited.
The prime time exposure will give a welcome boost to the Irish tourism industry, which has already enjoyed a significant rise in visitor numbers at the sites visited by the royal couple.