Britain's queen arrives in Ireland for state visit

17th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Queen Elizabeth II arrived in the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, wearing the emerald green of her hosts as she started the first visit by a British monarch in a century.

The sovereign, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, touched down at Casement Aerodrome, southwest of Dublin, at 11:55am (1055 GMT) to start the historic four-day visit, which is taking place amid a huge security lockdown.

The jet taxied with the sovereign's standard, which bears an Irish harp, flying from the cockpit window.

Two lines of troops formed a guard of honour either side of the red carpet unravelled at the aerodrome.

The queen wore a blue dress beneath an Irish emerald green coat and hat, while her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, wore a dark business suit. She smiled broadly as she was welcomed by dignitaries before receiving a posy of flowers.

The former Baldonnel military airbase, home to Ireland's army air corps, was renamed in 1965 after Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist executed for treason by the British in 1916.

Police had lined the airbase perimeter throughout Monday as the authorities combed through the bushes outside and along the N7 trunk road into Dublin.

The trip, aimed at reconciliation between an independent Ireland and its former ruler Britain, is taking place amid the biggest security operation in the Irish state's history.

Troops earlier defused a viable bomb near Dublin following threats by republican hardliners.

The landmark trip is aimed at normalising relations between the two neighbouring states. But a visit intended to underline the progress made after the hard-won peace in British-ruled Northern Ireland also highlighted how dissident republicans still pose a threat.

The royal couple were being whisked through closed-off streets to the Aras an Uachtarain, President Mary McAleese's official residence in Phoenix Park, for a ceremonial welcome.

McAleese will greet the royals with a 21-gun salute, a 33-motorcycle escort, a fly-past and a review of the guard of honour.

After the national anthems, they were to sign the visitors' book and plant a tree beside the peace bell.

During their visit, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are staying at Farmleigh House, the Irish state guest house located nearby in Phoenix Park.

The government bought the Georgian property from the Guinness family in 1999 for nearly 30 million euros and refurbished it.

© 2011 AFP

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