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Our nation can restore its pride

In a strange way, the Queen's visit and the passing of a great Irish leader were equally good for the Irish State.

The good that men do is too often interred with their bones, but we hope the private hurt of Garret FitzGerald's family over the death of a kind and gentle man will be eased by the public celebration of the good deeds of the great philosopher king of Irish politics. Even in repose, Mr FitzGerald is still doing 'some service' to the State for after the Faustian debacles of Haughey, the amorality of Mr Ahern and the incontinence of Mr Cowen's ghastly reign, he reminds us of the good politics can do.

Somewhat more to the nation's surprise, the Queen's visit provided us with the same message as a nation which has found it difficult for quite some time to be proud to be Irish engaged in an emotional truce with the old enemy. The happiest feature of our mutual decision to "bow to the past but not be bound by it" was its dignity. Nobody fawned, no one of any consequence barracked and respect mingled with understated affection was evident on all sides.

The welcome by GAA president Christy Cooney, where he spoke modestly but firmly of the GAA's founding ethos of "national regeneration", was as profound a vignette as the Queen's bow at the Garden of Remembrance. Taken in concert with the GAA's role in the funeral of Ronan Kerr, it was another example of how the GAA has stayed true to its original purpose.

The diligent role of a President, who, like the Queen, personally felt the sharp blade of our ancient quarrels, means we must now rate Mary McAleese in the first rank of Irish Presidents. Mr Kenny, meanwhile, who perfectly summarised the visit by noting it was the week Ireland finally grew up, is like a latter-day Cosgrave restoring the dignity of the office of Taoiseach. It may not be the rooting up of trees that is required, but after the chaotic insanity of what went before, not being embarrassed by our Taoiseach is like finding an oasis in the desert.

Critically, the royal visit also provided a proud nation that has been browbeaten into a state of despair by petty ECB clerks with a truer template of our real place in the world. Our Gallic and German occupiers may believe we are Pigs who exist to be bled for the benefit of some banking master race, but we also have true friends who do not share the analysis of our current Gauleiters.

It would be excessive to suggest that, after our recent encounters with the claws of the German eagle, we should slip back beneath the paw of the British lion, for we might not be half as welcome as we think we might be. But last week, and tomorrow's visit by Barack Obama, provide us with a welcome reminder that other countries believe we deserve a somewhat better fate than an eternity of being the sharecroppers of the ECB.

It is easy these days to wrap ourselves in our darkest widow's weeds and say our fate is hopeless. But 12 years after the visit of George V in 1911, Ireland was an independent State. And now, the squabbling siblings of Ireland and Britain are, in spite of all that history, firm friends. When the lightness of national being that comes from last week's caesura of old conflicts passes, Ireland will still be where we are now. But after a week where we reached the end of one time and the beginning of another, a proud and ancient civilisation can, if it chooses its friends wisely, begin to believe we need not be there forever.

Sunday Independent