Friday 22 November 2019

Queen hoping for a right royal welcome at Croker

Tourism chiefs confident of 'major bounce'

Queen Elizabeth will visit Croke Park
Queen Elizabeth will visit Croke Park
Queen Elizabeth meeting President Mary McAleese in Belfast in 2005

Fergus Black and Ralph Riegel

QUEEN Elizabeth will visit the GAA headquarters at Croke Park in Dublin as part of her state trip to Ireland next month.

However, government officials remained tightlipped last night about the impending trip and said details would be announced jointly by Aras an Uachtarain and Buckingham Palace.

It is understood, though, that the queen will visit Croke Park and may watch an exhibition of hurling and football by schoolchildren.

But last night, GAA director general Paraic Duffy declined to confirm or deny reports that the monarch would visit the stadium.

"I can't say anything except that it is a matter for the Government and a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs," he told the Irish Independent.

For many in the GAA organisation, Croke Park remains hallowed ground because of the events that occurred on the first Bloody Sunday in November 1920, when British auxiliary troops shot dead 14 people.

The decision to open the ground to soccer and rugby during the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road also led to a divisive debate within the organisation.

It culminated in a historic and emotional meeting of international rugby sides Ireland and England during a Six Nations clash at the stadium in 2007.

Should the queen's historic visit to Croke Park go ahead, it will come almost a year after British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the "unjustified and unjustifiable" events of Bloody Sunday in January 1972 in Derry, in which 14 civilians were killed.

A government spokesman said nothing official concerning the queen's visit had yet been confirmed, and the Government would not be commenting on the Croke Park story.

While Queen Elizabeth has visited more than 325 countries during her long reign, this will be the first by a British monarch to Ireland since George V in 1911.

Cork also looks likely to be included on the itinerary next month.

It has emerged that May 20 is the likely date for the queen to visit the city.

The monarch will spend two days in Dublin, which will include a state dinner in her honour hosted by President Mary McAleese. She is expected to fly into Baldonnel Aerodrome via an RAF flight.

Cork Lord Mayor Michael O'Connell formally invited the queen to visit Cork last month in light of the city's long-standing connections to British royalty.


"Most people know that I sent an invitation off to the British Embassy some weeks ago," he said.

"We had a response back last week and we have had formal discussions since then. It is looking very likely the queen will visit Cork toward the end of May.

"Confirmation will come from the British Embassy in relation to all the events she will be undertaking when she comes to Ireland. My understanding is that will come in the next week or so."

Meanwhile, tourism chiefs are hoping for a major "bounce" from the queen's visit and that of US President Barack Obama.

"We see these two visits as invaluable shop windows to these two lucrative markets. The US and UK are the top two overseas tourism markets for Ireland," said a Failte Ireland spokesman.

"For the queen's visit this is a first ever and a very significant milestone; while the Obama visit will also generate a lot of interest, particularly among the significant Irish/American population."

The White House said details of Mr Obama's Irish trip had yet to be finalised, but a spokesperson said it would be at the "front end" of his trip to Britain later next month.

The Irish Hotels Federation said it expected hundreds of hotel rooms to be booked to accommodate the president's advance team and the sizeable White House press corps that would accompany him.

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