Our closest neighbour and also our closest ally.

Today, the Queen of England arrives on the shores of the Republic of Ireland for the first time.  For most people, there is no difference between her visit and that of President Obama later this month.  It is simply the arrival of a foreign head of state, on a goodwill visit.  However, for a vocal minority, her arrival is seen in almost the same light, as the arrival of the anti-christ is seen by some Christian sects.

There is no denying that the United Kingdom and Republic of  Ireland have to say the least, a sordid past.  Ireland having been occupied by Great Britain for centuries.  While appreciable parts of Britain have been blown apart by Irish terrorists.  But, that is the past.  True it is a recent past, but it is still the past.

I am a proud citizen.  I am proud of, and believe in, my country.  I am also extremely loyal to my country.

However I also welcome the arrival of the Queen, to our small island.

“How can this be?”  I’m sure some of you are wondering.

Well last year the U.K. government gave our Republic genuine aid.  How quickly we forget, that when we as a nation were on our knees, our old adversaries, now our closest allies, gave us a loan of 7 billion euros.  Yes it will have to be paid back, but in the wording of the loan there is a noticeable lack of punishing interest rates and no veiled attempt to reformat the Irish Republic as Europe’s equivalent to Puerto Rico.  A mere protectorate, with neither voice nor hope of a voice.

That act.  That 7 billion Euros worth of genuine aid, was hardly the act of a sworn enemy.

“So what?”  Some of you are thinking, “they’re still the descendants of our colonial overlords.”

Some of them, a tiny few, are.  But many of them are descendants of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Irish men and women, who have at one time or another called mainland Britain their home.  The loudmouth minority in Ireland are always so fast to forget that there was a time, not so long ago in fact, when Shepard’s Bush in the greater London area was essentially an Irish colony.  The blowhards are so quick to ignore that a large number of Irish men and women, men and women who love their birth nation no less than anyone else, never came back.  But instead made lives, raised families and helped in their own way, to soften the harsher attitudes that had existed between our two nations.

“But what about the absentee landlords?”

What about them indeed?

These landlords who often treated their tenants in the U.K. mainland just as badly, sometimes even worse, than how they treated their Irish tenants.  Let’s not even get into the treatment of the native populations of India, Scotland, North America, the Far Eastern colonies and possibly the worst treated of them all, the Australian Aborigines.  Yes there were harsh landlords, who made their fortunes off of the backs of the poor. There always has been, there probably always will be for that matter.  Human nature is often cruel.  But there were also numberous examples of British landlords, who created reasons to employ the starving, the destitute of Ireland, in the hopes of helping them.  That is how many of the architectural follies that dot the Irish countryside were built.

The truth is I could spend eternity answering the questions of the hate-filled minority.  But that minority will never be satisfied for the pain and suffering which Ireland endured at the hands of Britain.

But we are fools, all of us, if we willfully ignore the pain and suffering our own countrymen have caused in Great Britain.  Through acts of terrorism Irishmen and women, self-styled citizen soldiers, have caused immeasurable pain across the narrow Irish Sea.

And yet, the Queen, head of state of our nearest neighbour, a neighbour who extended a helping hand in our hour of need, a neighbour who lived in fear of Republican bombs, is still coming here.

In Ireland there is an attitude, that we’re closer to Berlin than New York.  That our support, and our future lies with Europe.  The last few months have surely disabused us of that idea.  The truth is that we as a nation, are closer to London than anywhere.   Bound by painful history and the blood ties of scattered families.  Bound further, by the plague on both of our houses which Northern Ireland has become.  Bound and bound again, despite our own sons and daughters, waging a horrific war of terror on their own shores.

Yes I welcome the Queen of England to our shores.  She represents a nation, which is our closest neighbour and our closest ally in these harsh times.  Which has again and again given home too our young, when we have nothing left to give them ourselves.

Long may she reign, may her family be happy and healthy, and may her nation ever prosper.  But most of all may the vocal hate-filled or hate scarred members of both our nations, never tear asunder the ties that bind us together, and may we, in some future time of difficulties, come to their aid as they not so long ago came to ours.

The past is dead, and it need not be prologue.

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