Last week, I saw someone I never thought I would see, well not in my country at least.
It was the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, she drove past our house in her big black range rover with an impressive cavalcade. Not to mention helicopters, army & Gardaí (the Irish police force) present all along the route.
She smiled brightly, her car slowed and she looked warmly at our children.
It was quiet, which was a relief as we had watched television reports of anti-royalist republicans and dissidents rioting in Dublin city over the previous two days. I was born in 1971, so my memory of “The Troubles” is very clear and I have no doubt of what havoc could have been wreaked had certain people decided on it. Thankfully, they chose the high road.
I was born in the Republic, I was born a free person, so were my parents, but my grandparents were not. They were born subjects of a royal family who reigned over a nation that invaded our country, so the history of what happened here is still fresh.
This complicated history has confused me my whole life. It’s anything but black and white. There are so many elements and events of the 800 year occupation of my country that keeping up has always been difficult.
Ireland has struggled to establish itself since being declared a Republic. The industrial revolution passed us by, we were declared neutral but thousands of our men fought in both world wars as part of the English army, we’ve had a few recessions which led to thousands upon thousands of our youngest and brightest emigrating, often to England. I have a huge number of cousins who were born and raised in England, their partners and children are English but still they have a root or two in Ireland via one or both of their parents.
I don’t know how English people interpreted their Queens visit to our island, but I hope they realised the importance of it to a nation which spent a long time fighting for liberation.
The leaders of both Ireland and England stood shoulder to shoulder, paying their respects to lives lost, acknowledging mistakes in our shared and confusing pasts but more importantly looking forward to our futures.
The Anglo Irish agreement almost 26 years ago started a process that made peace possible for today’s Ireland, which made the passing of the esteemed Dr. Garret Fitzgerald last week all the more poignant.
It’s true that we all need to learn from our pasts, but we also need to move on from them. The past is the past and there is nothing anyone can do about it. All we truly have is today and the hope of a better tomorrow.
As for today, Barack and Michelle Obama were here for the day.
It’s been a good week to be Irish.
Is Feidir Linn.