WHEN a neighbour dies, most humane and civilised people in the locality generally pay their last respects to that person and sympathise with their bereaved family. This is what generally happens, regardless of any differences of opinion or disputes which might have occurred in the preceding years.
So, it is right as good neighbours to honour and pay final respect to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth today as she is laid to rest with due ceremony in London. Unusually, the President and Taoiseach will be among the legion of heads of state and government to attend the royal funeral.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is also due to meet with the new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss. While this will be neither the appropriate time nor place to raise business matters, it is to be hoped that a proper working meeting between the two leaders is arranged as early as possible.
Political work has appropriately been put on hold since the death of the British queen. But this will resume again tomorrow and there are many urgent matters to be worked upon by the political leaders in both Dublin and London.
Throngs of people queued for hours on end to file past the monarch’s coffin as she lay in state in recent days. This illustrated the high regard in which she was held in Britain thanks to her 70 years of devoted service.
Here in this country, there has been much reminiscing about her first ever visit here, back in May 2011, which has been acknowledged as a great success. Her reverent bowing of the head at the Garden of Remembrance, and the well-crafted speech at a state dinner in Dublin Castle, were landmarks of reconciliation in British-Irish relations.
Given the plethora of strong social and cultural links between these islands, the pity was that Queen Elizabeth had not been able to visit this jurisdiction earlier and more often. Her love of horses and country pursuits would have made such visits a real joy for her.
Since the Brexit referendum and the subsequent mendacity of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – in flouting an international treaty giving Northern Ireland special trade status – the British-Irish relationship has dramatically deteriorated. That of itself requires urgent attention.
The Brexit issue will soon reach another climax, probably in a matter of days. There are signs that it would have already done so except for the political hiatus caused by the queen’s death. This is an enormous challenge for the Irish Government and its officials.
Sadly, hope remains faint that the British side will show goodwill in negotiations to reach a workable compromise on the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.
The alternative to a compromise deal is a damaging and inevitable trade conflict between the EU and the UK which will hurt many people at a time of worsening economic problems.
Ireland must make its voice heard and leave no stone unturned in pursuit of a fair and sensible EU-UK agreement.