British and Irish press hail queen's 'cathartic' visit

18th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ireland is a "mutual catharsis" which gives historical credibility to the recent political advances made by the two nations, British and Irish newspapers said Wednesday.

Commentators from both sides of the Irish Sea hailed the trip, which began on Tuesday, as a giant step but warned work still had to be done in light of a recent upsurge in sectarian violence.

"The queen's visit to Ireland is a symbol of reconciliation and the hope for a better future," an editorial in the Times of London said.

"Wounds take a long time to heal and it would be naive to suppose they have entirely healed yet," it added.

"The queen in Ireland: one small step... and a giant stride into history," splashed the Telegraph above a picture of the moment when the queen became the first British monarch to set foot on Irish soil in 100 years.

"Reminders of Ireland's bloody struggle to break free from Britain were everywhere, and the two governments that organised the visit made no attempt to avoid them as the queen confronted the past head-on," columnist Gordon Rayner wrote.

In Tuesday's most symbolic moment, the queen joined Irish President Mary McAleese during the wreath-laying ceremony at Dublin's Garden of Remembrance, which honours Irish lives lost in the fight for independence from Britain.

"It took many decades and a great deal of pain for the relationship to be placed on the footing of equality and respect that is essential to true friendship," an editorial in the Irish Times said.

"No one is seeking to forget that struggle and the queen's visit to the Garden of Remembrance is a poignant recognition on the British side of its legitimacy," it added.

Dublin's Evening Herald wrote there was "no escaping the sense that the visit... is a long overdue development in the relationship between these two islands."

"Some words from her majesty acknowledging and commenting on the difficult relationship between our two countries are called for."

The queen will later Wednesday make a defining speech after a visit to Dublin's Croke Park stadium, the scene of a massacre by British forces in 1920 that left a deep scar in Irish history.

Belfast-born Guardian columnist Mick Fealty called the 85-year-old's four-day trip "our mutual catharsis" and welcomed it as the most unambiguous demonstration of healing relations between the two neighbours.

"Of all the matters that have been dubbed historic in the last 10 to 15 years of Irish politics, the visit of Elizabeth, 'Queen of England'... is both an authentic and significant moment for relations within and between these islands," he reasoned.

The queen, the first British monarch to visit Ireland since it gained independence in 1922, on Tuesday received a largely warm welcome but 21 republican demonstrators were arrested amid isolated scenes of unrest.

The Irish Times editorial slammed those actively opposed to the visit, although speculated they had a positive effect by "reminding us of what Ireland as a whole has left behind".

"Most of the rest of the nation, even in the midst of our current travails, has the self-confidence not to need a hatred of Britain to make it feel Irish," it added.

© 2011 AFP

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