Wednesday 18 October 2017

Kevin Myers: The real question to ask is not: why a visit from the queen now? No, it remains: why only now?

Kevin Myers

The only question to ask about any proposed visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Republic of Ireland is: why only now? Only an idiot would be unaware of the history of these islands, but a troubled history is usually the very reason why the head of state of one of nation visits another.

State visits are not necessarily between two countries who, politically speaking, are regularly having sex. They can be a relatively early preliminary in the repair of damaged relationships, in which there is much unfinished business. That is the very reason for the state visit. It is an act of emollience.

There was unfinished business galore when Chancellor Adenauer of West Germany made his first visit to France in 1951. To be sure, it was not a full "state visit" as such, and nor is the German chancellor head of state. However, the German president has a largely poetical and moral role: he or she is not even head of the armed forces. The first full, post-war state visits occurred in 1961, when de Gaulle visited Germany, and the following year, when Adenauer reciprocated. Wounds had far from healed. Over 170,000 French soldiers had been killed fighting the Germans in the war. Another 40,000 Frenchmen from Alsace-Lorraine had been forcibly abducted as conscripts and killed while serving in the German armed forces, including the SS. Some 30,000 French civilians had been executed by Germans. Another 60,000 French civilians were killed in summary atrocities. Over 100,000 French Jews had been murdered. Forty thousand French slave workers had died in captivity in Germany.

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