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A royal boost to our confidence

She came, she saw, she conquered. In four remarkable days, Queen Elizabeth II transformed the attitudes of most Irish people towards the British monarchy and in the process helped to restore our battered national self-confidence.

Where her ancestors, most notably the first Elizabeth, had unsuccessfully sought to subdue us by military force, Elizabeth II won us over with charm and courtesy.

In what was by any yardstick a remarkable performance, particularly by an 85-year-old woman, the queen didn't put a foot wrong. From her visit to the Garden of Remembrance on the first day it was clear that this was going to be something special. That slight bow of the head in silent recognition of those who gave their lives fighting Britain in the cause of Irish independence demonstrated remarkable sensitivity and marked the beginning of what looks suspiciously like a renewed love affair between the Irish people and the House of Windsor.

Ever since independence in 1922 the monarchy has been airbrushed out of official Irish history. This is despite the fact that we had shared a sovereign with our larger neighbour for the previous 750 years. But of course you can't wipe out three-quarters-of-a-millennia of shared history overnight.

In the almost 90 years since independence, hundreds of thousands of Irish people have emigrated to the UK while tens of thousands of Irishmen fought on the British side in World War Two. For the overwhelming majority of these Irish emigrants and soldiers, loyalty to the crown posed no problems.

Even amongst those who remained at home, opinions towards the British monarchy were far more nuanced than official nationalist mythology would have had us believe. British royal weddings, coronations and funerals have always attracted large TV audiences in this country, while the glossy magazines that follow the comings and goings of the British royal family enjoy a healthy circulation on this side of the Irish Sea.

Quite clearly, a significant proportion of the Irish people, if not closet monarchists, are at least sneaking regarders.

And that was before this week's royal visit. The last time a reigning British monarch had visited this country was when Queen Elizabeth's grandfather George V came in 1911. His granddaughter was clearly determined to make up for lost time. With each day that passed, the momentum steadily increased. From the Garden of Remembrance on Tuesday, to her speech at Dublin Castle on Wednesday and the sustained standing ovation she received at the National Convention Centre on Thursday.

Yesterday, it was Cork's turn. Any notion that the 'Rebel City' would prove more resistant than Dublin to the queen's charms was rapidly disabused.

However, the truly remarkable thing about the royal visit is not that we have, after almost a century of juvenile posturing, finally put our relationship with the UK on a friendly, grown-up basis, but what it means for this country.

Ever since the Celtic Tiger economic bubble burst three years ago, the stories coming out of Ireland have been overwhelmingly negative. As one financial disaster followed another, the world had grown punch-drunk at the seemingly endless bad news coming from Ireland. The royal visit changed that.

For four days this week, Ireland dominated the world's headlines for all of the right reasons. The queen contributed massively to the success of the visit. Not to put too fine a point on it, she played a blinder.

What the royal visit showed was that it isn't all doom and gloom in Ireland. Despite the royal visit presenting enormous security and logistical challenges we can, when we put our minds to it, get things right. We can and will overcome our present problems, and better days lie ahead. It would be truly ironic if the boost to national self-confidence and self-esteem generated by the visit of Queen Elizabeth was to represent the turning point in our fortunes.

Irish Independent