Saturday 18 November 2017

‘The Irish and British are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends’

Guests listen during a speech by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins at the Royal Banquet in Windsor
Guests listen during a speech by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins at the Royal Banquet in Windsor

Sam Griffin

Queen Elizabeth told the banquet in honour of President Michael D Higgins that “we are walking together towards a brighter, more settled future”.

She said our nations had entered a new era of co-operation.

“Prince Philip and I recall our visit to Ireland with great pleasure. We were received warmly wherever we went. Dublin; the city of Cork and its English Market; Ireland's historic landmarks like the Rock of Cashel; your people's famous hospitality – and, of course, Ireland's thoroughbred horses – all these and much more left a happy and enduring impression.

“But even more pleasing, since then, is that we, the Irish and British, are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends; finally shedding our inhibitions about seeing the best in each other.

“Our two governments have responded to the change in mood. We now co-operate across the full range of public business; indeed, there is today no closer working relationship for my government than that with Ireland.”

President Higgins said the relationship between the two countries had been strengthened by the success of the peace process.

In a wide-ranging address, he paid tribute to the millions of people from Ireland who had been forced to emigrate to the UK.

“Through conquest and resistance, we have cast shadows on each other, but we have also gained strength from one another as neighbours and, most especially, from the contribution of those who have travelled between our islands in recent decades,” he said.

Referencing the queen's 2011 address in Dublin, he said she bravely chose not “to shy away from the shadows of the past” but said it was important both sides didn’t allow the past to “imperil the potential of the present or the possibilities of the future.

“We must, however, never forget those who died, were bereaved, or injured, during a tragic conflict,” he added.

“We owe a duty to all those who lost their lives, the duty to build together in peace; it is the only restitution, the only enduring justice we can offer them.”

Referencing 1,000 years of Anglo-Irish history, the queen said the countries were entering into a period of “historic resonance”. She said the contribution of Irish people, once marginalised in Britain, is now recognised and Irish people have made the country a better place.

“Over the years, many Irish migrants to Britain encountered discrimination and a lack of appreciation. Happily, those days are now behind us, and it is widely recognised that Britain is a better place because of the Irish people who live here.”

She said the Irish contribution during World War I would be honoured later in the year when Britain marks the centenary of the beginning of the conflict.

After the speeches, guests tucked into fillet of Isle of Gigha halibut with young leeks and fine herb sauce.

For the main course they ate tornadoes of Windsor estate beef with wild mushrooms and water cress puree, served with purple sprouting broccoli and sauce hollandaise, and baked onions.

For dessert guests were served vanilla ice-cream bombe with Balmoral redcurrant centre.

Irish Independent

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