Monday 23 October 2017

McAleese says time is right to welcome the queen

Fiach Kelly and David Young

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has described this week's visit by Queen Elizabeth as an "extraordinary moment" in the history of Ireland.

Mrs McAleese -- who invited the queen here and is widely credited for paving the way for the momentous visit -- insisted it was "absolutely the right moment" for the first journey here by a British monarch since independence.

Ahead of the queen's arrival tomorrow, both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted that gardai and other security services were ready for the visit.

In an interview with RTE, to be broadcast as part of a documentary tomorrow night, Mrs McAleese said the visit had been made possible by the success of the peace process.

"I think it is an extraordinary moment in Irish history," she said.

"A phenomenal sign and signal of the success of the peace process and absolutely the right moment for us to welcome on to Irish soil her majesty the queen, the head of state of our immediate next-door neighbours, the people with whom we are forging a new future -- a future very, very different from the past, on very different terms from the past.

"And I think that visit will send the message that we are, both jurisdictions, determined to make the future a much, much better place."

The interview, as well as one with British Prime Minister David Cameron, will be broadcast in the special documentary, 'The Queen and Us', on RTE One.

Mr Kenny -- who was interviewed on the BBC and Sky News yesterday to mark the event -- acknowledged there was still a hardcore dissident group opposed to the visit.

"The garda authorities, working with the police authorities in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland, are very conscious of this," he told the BBC TV's 'Andrew Marr Show'.

"The vast, vast majority of people in this country will give a very warm reception to the queen and her party," Mr Kenny added.


Mr Kenny was interviewed from Westport in his native Mayo, which is near to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, where the queen's cousin, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.

Mr Kenny was asked about this but said: "These things are in the past and people understand that.

"For the past 25 years, we've had visiting dignitaries from around the world," he added. "There have always been adequate security arrangements.

"The sites chosen by the queen are sensitive, they are appropriate and I think they send out a great signal of healing of the past and getting together to face the challenges of the future."

Mr Gilmore said people in Dublin, Cork, Kildare and Tipperary -- the counties the queen will visit -- would understand the disruption caused by the massive security operation.

"There is obviously a very tight level of security for this visit," Mr Gilmore said at the Labour Party's James Connolly commemoration in Arbour Hill, Dublin, yesterday.

He said the precautions had to be put in place "to ensure the visit goes off well and that as a country, we can maximise the benefit of this visit and the visit of President Obama afterwards".

Irish Independent

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