Northern Ireland

Royal visit heavy on symbolism for Dubliners

The Queen and President Mary McAleese with their husbands Martin McAleese and Prince Phillip
Image caption The Queen and President Mary McAleese with their husbands Martin McAleese and Prince Phillip

Travelling into Dublin on Tuesday morning, it was clear that the Irish police were leaving nothing to chance.

As far as 10 miles from anywhere the Queen was due to visit, police cars were parked on unusual corners of suburban avenues.

But if the security presence there was discreet, it became the opposite as city centre workers weaved in and out of each other towards their workplaces.

Street upon street in the centre of Dublin is lined with steel barriers with scores of police in fluorescent jackets standing alongside them.

Most seemed to take little notice, where necessary stoically diverting from their normal path.

The security aside, Dublin looks to the casual eye like any UK city.

The cafes on Tuesday morning appeared busy with many flicking through the latest smartphone while sipping their coffee.

Look a little closer though and there are signs that not all is well.

Coming into the city from the north, striking graffiti on a dockland wall demonstrates the anger some feel about the economic distress their country is in - "Greed is the knife and the scars run deep", it says.

Image caption Economic concerns weigh heavily with most Dubliners

Most people in the Republic of Ireland seem far more concerned about those economic wounds than any historic hurt about their relationship with the UK.

For that reason, the Queen's visit is, to most Dubliners, a symbolic copper-fastening of an already healed relationship.

Tuesday's engagements made sure that symbolism was prominent. The most important was the Queen's visit to the Garden of Remembrance, the place which commemorates those who died for Irish freedom.

As she laid a wreath for those who were killed fighting against her own country's forces, the atmosphere was sombre, the silence only disturbed by the quiet whirring of a helicopter overhead.

The Queen had herself joined in the symbolism, wearing a green outfit as the Irish tricolour and the Union flag were hoisted together at the Irish president's residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

She often seemed relaxed, smiling and waving warmly at crowds who gathered to greet her at Trinity College.

And when she went inside to view the historic Book of Kells, she chatted quizically with her guide. Throughout she had the air of someone finally visiting a place they had long wanted to see.

Image caption The laying of a wreath by the Queen was considered by many to be a highly symbolic act

Meanwhile, a couple of miles away near to the city's main thoroughfare, the reason for the police's security cordons became apparent.

A small group of young people opposed to the visit attacked police with bricks, bottles and fireworks.

The onlookers at the cordon included a number of Portuguese football supporters in town for the Europa League final on Wednesday night.

They are adding a splash of Iberian colour to the city this week, milling around the shops and bars wearing the scarves and shirts of Porto or Braga.

They watched, slightly bemused, as the security operation continued. Like many of the Dubliners around them, they had more pressing matters on their mind.