Off the fence
So what will 2011 be remembered for? Undoubtedly one of the most poignant moments was the sight of President Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth standing side by side at the Garden of Remembrance.
It swirled up many quite surprising emotions and undoubtedly marked a new maturity in the relationship between Ireland and Britain.
I had initially believed that Queen Elizabeth’s visit last May would be of little significant value other than in historical terms.
We heard many times in the weeks leading up to Queen Elizabeth II’s visit that it was the first visit by a British monarch to Ireland in more than 100 years, and the first ever visit by a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland.
Yes I envisaged there would be some symbolism and historical nods and references to our troubled past but I did not expect any stage of the four day visit to move me like the wreath laying ceremony did at the Garden of Remembrance memorial.
Those who died fighting for Irish freedom put everything on the line so that we can live our lives at a time when everything seems possible. Yes we have economic crosses to bear, many families are struggling and our sovereignty has been compromised once more. However, this time instead of blaming it on the British it was our own power hungry bankers, developers and legislators who put greed and their self-interests ahead of the people.
The noble freedom fighters of 1916 would surely turn in their graves if they were to witness our management of the country, but watching the remarkable pictures last May I sensed that their spirit was being honoured in a truly memorable and poignant fashion.
I almost had to pinch myself at the irony of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces Queen Elizabeth II bowing her head at the most republican of Irish memorials while the poem Rinneadh Aisling Dúinn (We Saw A Vision) was read aloud in Irish by Capt Joe Freeley.
Rinneadh Aisling Dúinn is inscribed on the wall of the Garden of Remembrance and is a touching embodiment of what men like Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Seán MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett and Eamonn Ceannt stood for.
Executed by British Forces, the founders of our State are heroes who put their country ahead of every personal gain. The romanticism of their accomplishments can sometimes become almost mythical in the array of ballads and folk songs which glorify their memory, but evocative moments like Queen Elizabeth’s Garden of Remembrance visit help us to remember them as the brave, patriotic and forthright men that they were.
The way in which we welcomed Queen Elizabeth II in Dublin, Tipperary and Cork was testament to our new found belief, confidence and maturity as a people. It is a moment we will remember for many years to come.