Saturday 16 December 2017

'We want to be a part of history being made'

Enthusiasts grab all best vantage points

Fergus Black and Louise Hogan

IT was all for the sake of seeing history in the making.

They'd walked more than 60 minutes to nab a prime spot just outside the wrought iron gates of the President's abode in the barricaded roadways of the Phoenix Park.

Some had brought their children, another a pedigree pooch fresh from a trip to the beautician.

Alas, no one had managed to smuggle a picnic past the security for the three-hour wait some endured just to catch a glimpse of that big hat whizzing by into Aras an Uachtarain as Queen Elizabeth's first official engagement got under way.

"It's history being made today and we really want to be a part of it," said Bernie Vickers, an amateur actress and the bearer of some well-worn runners, after their hour-long stroll in from Palmerstown. "We're trying to decide which side of the car she'll be sitting on."

Her friends Joan White and Maura McGrath were also enticed by the "pomp and pageantry" to lace up those runners.

"I was here for President Kennedy. I got off the bus and tore across and saw him going by and was convinced he was looking right at me," Bernie added.

May had been a great month, the trio surmised. First there was Jedward to cheer people up, closely followed by Queen Elizabeth's visit.

There was a 50-strong crowd near the gates of the Aras surrounded by a heavy entourage of gardai along the sealed-off avenue.

"I thought more would have been here," one onlooker said.

Joan Merriman, from Chapelizod, accompanied by 'Suki' an 11-year-old Japanese spitz, revealed the fluffy pooch had a trip to the beautician the week previously.

"If she'd been a Corgi I'd definitely have had her all polished up," she joked.

"It's a bit of history for the kids," said Breda and London-born Christian Lees, who had travelled up from Galway and stayed overnight, just to bring their three children -- Jeffrey (7), equipped with a camera, Jemma (5) and Patrick (3) -- to glimpse the queen passing by.

"I just wanted to come. I was over at Andrew and Fergie's wedding -- it's great she's here," Grace Pearson, from the Navan Road, said after a reconnaissance mission to suss out access to the park the previous day. "I hope everything goes well for her."

Barry Black, from Clonee, said it was "positive for the country going forward, we're not looking back anymore".

The appearance of two mounted police officers at the main gate to the Aras ended the waiting crowds' fears that the queen might scupper their plans by arriving by helicopter.

At seven minutes past midday in whizzed the man himself, Enda Kenny. "There's Enda -- up Mayo," came a shout.

The cavalcade sped in at 12.35pm, led by the Army's ceremonial officers on motorbikes and followed by a 17-car entourage with the queen herself propped up in the back of a Range Rover Vogue.

Worth the three-hour wait? "Absolutely, her hat looked lovely. She waved at me," said Bernie Vickers, as the pomp and glamour was given the seal of approval by the waiting masses.

There were more than a few grumbles among weary commuters as a major shutdown of many city centre routes and disturbances to public transport left some testing out their fitness. "I would have loved to have been closer but unfortunately it was just not possible," one woman said, as she was held far back at a barricade as the queen sped along a sealed off O'Connell Street.

Others revealed they'd taken the day off work. Some had stayed overnight in Dublin just to catch a glimpse of her.

Irish Independent

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