Royal visits to Northern Ireland show the Crown to be a force for good

A legacy of peace & hope

DURING her unprecedented reign the Queen saw Britain transform from the age of steam to the digital era of stream.

Nowhere has this profound social and political change been felt more than in Northern Ireland.

The Queen’s triumphant visit to Dublin in 2011 softened even the hardest of Republican hearts. Pictured with then-Irish President Mary McAleese

The Queen’s triumphant visit to Dublin in 2011 softened even the hardest of Republican hearts. Pictured with then-Irish President Mary McAleese
The sight of the new King shaking the hand of Sinn Fein’s vice-president proves the power of the Crown as a force for good

The sight of the new King shaking the hand of Sinn Fein’s vice-president proves the power of the Crown as a force for goodCredit: PA
The Queen's historic handshake with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness

The Queen’s historic handshake with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinnessCredit: AFP

We have come a very long way from the murderous beginning of the Troubles in 1968 to the relative peace and prosperity of today.

It would have been unthinkable at the start of Her Majesty’s rule that she would ever meet any member of the IRA. By the 1970s she was at the very top of their “kill list”.

For many in Belfast and beyond, the pain endured by thousands of families during those years of conflict make it hard to truly reconcile with the compromises needed for peace.

Both the Queen and her son knew that pain. As Prince of Wales, Charles wept at the loss of his beloved great-uncle and mentor Lord Mountbatten — blown up by the IRA on his boat in 1979.

But the sight yesterday of the new King shaking the hand of Sinn Fein’s vice-president proves the power of the Crown as a force for good.

Deeply bound respect and love

The Queen’s triumphant visit to Dublin in 2011, where she gladly shook hands, smiled and spoke a few words of Irish, softened even the hardest of Republican hearts.

As Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey said yesterday, Queen Elizabeth was no distant observer in the transformation of Ireland.

Her role in the reconciliation was vital.

Last night the late Queen made her final journey from Scotland to her home in Buckingham Palace.

Tens of thousands had filed past her coffin at Edinburgh Cathedral. More than one million of her subjects will descend on the capital ahead of her funeral. And thousands will no doubt turn out for King Charles when he visits Wales on Friday.

The past few days have clearly shown that the vast majority in our United Kingdom have a deeply bound, widely held respect and love for the monarchy.

There are some who want to destroy our Union. Sinn Fein members in Ulster, for example, are refusing to take part in any events marking King Charles’ accession to the throne.

But so often at moments of crisis the Queen pulled the country together.

It now falls to the new King to continue promoting her message of peace — and become benevolent ruler of a Union that’s unbreakable.