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Queen in Ireland: Royal visit fails to ignite passions

  • 17 May 2011
  • From the section UK
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Irish police officers behind barriers
About 6,000 police officers will be on duty for the Queen's four-day visit

As Dublin finalises last-minute preparations for its first visit from a British monarch in a century, a ring of steel has been erected around key locations. But while protests against the trip have been small, many of the younger generation will be left underwhelmed.

The Irish protesters who gathered on the streets of Dublin at the weekend branded Britain "the neighbour from hell" as they demonstrated against the Queen's forthcoming visit to the Republic of Ireland.

Hardline dissident republicans held placards, waved flags and voiced their hostility towards the British crown. They vowed to make sure that the Queen's first trip to Dublin would be her last.

The demonstration on Sunday afternoon in the city centre was heavily publicised in advance. It was billed as a chance for Dubliners to let the world see the depth of Irish opposition to the high-profile British visitor.

How many people turned up? About 50.

Just up the road, five times that number gathered at Dublin airport to see Irish pop duo Jedward return from Germany after competing in the Eurovision song contest.

By all accounts, controlling the screaming teenage girls at the airport was more difficult for the Irish police than restraining the republicans at the protest rally.

The truth is that the majority of Irish people are in favour of the Queen's historic visit, the first by a British monarch to Dublin for 100 years.

Ring of steel

The British ambassador in Dublin, Julian King, has been a key player in organising the trip. It is a case of a King preparing the way for the Queen.

He says the feedback from Irish people has been "very warm".

"I've been overwhelmed by the hundreds of letters that we've received from all over Ireland inviting the Queen to come and visit. Not everyone is completely happy but the vast, vast majority of people who've contacted us have been really supportive," he adds.

The Queen's itinerary is ambitious - stretching from Dublin to Kildare to Tipperary to Cork.

Since the four-day visit involving 11 different venues was announced, dissident republicans in Northern Ireland have stepped up their violence. They have killed a police officer and planted a number of bombs.

However, the visit has never been in doubt. The Dublin ambassador says: "Nothing that's happened has in any way taken away from our complete confidence in what the Irish authorities are doing to make this visit secure and a success."

Nonetheless, the Irish police are not taking any chances. A ring of steel - literally - is already in place around the key locations where the Queen will visit.

The company which manufactures the steel barriers must have made a fortune in recent weeks. The shiny barriers are everywhere.

About 6,000 police officers and soldiers will be on duty. The total security bill for the Queen's visit, and this month's trip to Ireland by US President Barack Obama, is expected to be 30m euros (£26m).

Queen Elizabeth II
At 85, it is unlikely that the Queen will be walking for any great distances

Two water cannons from Northern Ireland have been borrowed in case things turn nasty.

Writing in the Irish Times at the weekend, broadcaster Henry Kelly called for a huge Irish welcome for Queen Elizabeth II, just like Queen Victoria got on her four Irish visits.

He said: "If you have an ounce of historical awareness in your heart and soul, you will throng the streets and raise a cheer to the royal visit."

The only problem is that most of the streets will be closed. Long walkabouts are not on the agenda.

Celtic tiger

Of course, this is not just because of the security situation. At 85 years of age, and in the 60th year of her reign, the Queen cannot be expected to walk up and down Grafton Street all day.

Even if she did, it is hard to imagine a massive crowd. Many Irish people have a fascination with the British Royal Family, and in some cases, a deep affection.

However, there is a large swathe of modern Irish society whose response to the Queen's visit will be "so what?"

They have other concerns, not least the economic hardship which the country is suffering as a result of the dramatic end of the Celtic Tiger years.

As for the "Jedward generation", constitutional affairs are not high on their list of priorities.

Even without walkabouts, the Queen's visit promises to be a testing time for the Irish authorities.

They cannot complain about not being ready to host a British monarch. They have had 100 years to prepare for it.

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