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Leaders play down chance of atrocities apology

The Government last night played down the prospect of a comprehensive apology from Queen Elizabeth II for atrocities under British rule during her historic state visit.

The queen is due to make a keynote address at a state dinner being held in her honour tomorrow night.

Ahead of the first visit of the monarch, there has been substantial speculation she will issue an apology to the Irish people for British rule -- and the content of her historic speech will be subject to extensive analysis.

But Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore last night played down the prospects of an apology.

On the question of whether it would be appropriate for the queen to apologise, Mr Gilmore told the Irish Independent there was a difference between leadership roles.

"There is a difference between what a head of state says and what the head of a government says, and I think that we shouldn't expect the head of a state, which in many ways is a kind of ceremonial role, to do the kind of things which are more appropriate for people in government," he said.


Following the apology last year by British Prime Minister David Cameron to the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry, there has been speculation the queen would follow on with an apology.

Mr Cameron is also due to attend the dinner and will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

An acknowledgement of the troubled history between the two countries is expected to be included in the queen's speech.

Mr Cameron warmly welcomed the queen's visit as sign of the relationship between the two countries and said it would be "great for all our people".

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Mr Kenny said that as the queen steps upon Irish soil today "a new chapter in Irish-British relations will begin".

"The state visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth is an acknowledgement of the warmth and importance with which the Irish community are held in Britain and recognition of the major contribution that they are making to business, community and artistic life there," he said.

Mr Kenny said the vast majority of Irish people welcomed the historic visit and appreciated its significance.

"The queen's visit symbolises the end of centuries of division and divisiveness. It acknowledges the warm and friendly relations that now exist between our two countries and it signals a new era in the close relationship between our peoples, as sovereign states and close neighbours," he said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin last night also welcomed the visit.

"I was the Minister for Foreign Affairs when this visit was set in train and I strongly supported the then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen in his analysis that such a visit was desirable as 'part of the normal courtesies enjoyed by friendly, neighbouring states'.

"We cannot ignore our history and our long interaction with Britain, nor should we deny people in Northern Ireland the right to identify themselves as being British or Irish or both," he said.

Irish Independent