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Queen's visit to be commemorated at Aras visitor centre

JUST over a week ago few people would have dared to think it was possible.

But plans are under way to create an exhibition at Aras an Uachtarain to celebrate the successful state visit by Queen Elizabeth.

A spokeswoman for Aras an Uachtarain said part of the visitor's centre will have a dedicated area to serve as a permanent reminder of the historic four-day trip, which is credited with ushering in a new era in Anglo-Irish relations.

Among the mementoes on display will be a silver water jug, which was crafted by renowned Belfast silversmith Michael McCrory and was presented by the queen and Prince Philip to President Mary McAleese during a private ceremony at Farmleigh, before the trip to Croke Park last Wednesday.

The menu of the banquet at Dublin Castle that same evening will also be put on show, together with photos capturing other key moments of the royal visit, including the visit to the Garden of Remembrance and Islandbridge.

Spokeswoman Grainne Mooney said yesterday: "We plan to have a display in the visitor centre based around the queen's visit. It's likely that photographs and other reminders of the trip, like the menu, will be displayed, along with the silver jug President McAleese was presented with."

Ms Mooney also confirmed that the President was presented with two portraits -- one of the queen and one of the prince -- before the visit to Croke Park.

The portraits, each framed in silver and signed and dated, could also find their way to the visitor's centre or even the President's private quarters, though she stressed no decision had yet been made on where to display them.

"I don't know what the plans are yet for the portraits. A decision has yet to be made. The photos themselves are not suitable for hanging and will have to be placed on a piece of furniture."

On a personal note, the portraits will also be a lasting memory of the warm and convivial relationship that was forged between the queen and President and which kickstarted a new era in Anglo-Irish relations.

Meanwhile, commentators in Britain believe the monarchy is now more popular than ever, boosted by the triumphant visit to Ireland and the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which was seen by a huge global TV audience.

Irish Independent