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Queen of England to make first visit to Ireland

The visit is seen as a normalization of relations after a century-long quarrel.

Queen Elizabeth
Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves Buckingham Palace in a horse drawn carriage to attend the State Opening of Parliament, London, May 25, 2010. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

DUBLIN, Ireland — Preparations are under way for a historic state visit to the Republic of Ireland by Queen Elizabeth ll next year.

The 84-year-old head of the House of Windsor will be the first British monarch to grace the neighboring island nation since it gained independence from Britain in 1921.

Confirmation that the event, long discussed between London and Dublin, will take place next year has come from Ireland’s prime minister, Brian Cowen. It is time for “normal courtesies” to be observed between friendly states, explained Cowen, after discussions with his British counterpart David Cameron in London on June 23.

Queen Elizabeth’s visit will mark a normalization of relations between the two countries after a century of strife and discord. The last British monarch to come to this part of the Emerald Isle was King George V, who arrived as part of his coronation celebrations in 1911.

A decade later the War of Independence forced the departure of British Crown forces. The bitterness of that conflict, plus the forced partition of the island, Ireland’s neutrality during World War II and the use of the British army in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, strained relations for most of the 20th century.

The success of the peace process in Northern Ireland and the recent apology by Cameron for the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Derry have removed remaining obstacles to good relations. Indeed members of the Irish parliament from the majority government party, Fianna Fail, whose predecessors fought for Ireland’s freedom, are competing to have Her Majesty come to their constituencies.

They are anxious to exploit the tourism potential, however, rather than to tug the forelock as the loyal Irish once did. After all, Queen Victoria put the Lakes of Killarney on the world vacation map when she stayed there briefly in 1861.

Not everyone in Ireland will be so welcoming of course. Sinn Fein member of parliament Caoimhghin O Caolain said his party opposed a visit by the “commander-in-chief of the British armed forces” because of the continuing British military presence in Northern Ireland.

For her part Queen Elizabeth has memories of the assassination by the IRA of her uncle by marriage, Louis Mountbatten, when he was vacationing in Ireland in 1979.