Wednesday 7 December 2016

Why a royal presence at the 1916 Rising centenary would be a historical contrivance

Diarmaid Ferriter

Published 17/04/2014 | 02:30

President Michael D Higgins and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during last week's State Visit
President Michael D Higgins and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during last week's State Visit

During the recent state visit of President Michael D Higgins to Britain, Queen Elizabeth announced in her speech at the state banquet in Windsor Castle: "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 Free State."

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Perhaps we should not be that surprised at this. After all, in September last year, when speaking to the British-Irish Association in Cambridge, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore suggested "if we are true to the lead" that President Mary McAleese and the Queen demonstrated during the state visit in 2011 "then I would hope that we can host representatives of the royal family and the British government, along with the leaders of unionism, in Dublin in three years' time in remembering the Easter Rising."

It is clear from these speeches that this gesture is seen as part of a continuing peace process that serves the needs of contemporary politics. Clearly, both the British and Irish governments want to continue the momentum underpinning improved Anglo-Irish relations and shared commemorations are seen as a way of doing that.

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