Northern Ireland centenary a time to reflect on reconciliation, says Queen Elizabeth

Monarch speaks of treasured memories as state marks 100th anniversary of foundation

Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness and  first minister Peter Robinson at the Lyric Theatre  in Belfast in 2012.  File photograph:  Paul Faith/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth shakes hands with deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness and first minister Peter Robinson at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2012. File photograph: Paul Faith/WPA Pool/Getty Images

 

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has said that “reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted” on the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.

She spoke of the “treasured” memories she shared in the North with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, as part of a message to mark its centenary.

She also said the “continued peace” in the North “is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests”.

In a statement, she said: “A century ago, the Government of Ireland Act came into effect, and today marks a significant centenary for both the United Kingdom and Ireland. This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity.

Northern Ireland was created on May 3rd, 1921, when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate states. Events to mark the centenary will be muted due to concerns over Covid-19.

The queen said: “In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset. The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division. But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.

“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment. During my many visits to Northern Ireland, I have seen these qualities in abundance, and look forward to seeing them again on future occasions.

“I look back with fondness on the visit Prince Philip and I paid to Ireland, 10 years ago this month. I treasure my many memories, and the spirit of goodwill I saw at first hand.

“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our guiding thread in the coming years.

“I send my warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland. Elizabeth R.”

British prime minister Boris Johnson said the UK Government would continue to showcase “all the brilliant things” that Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK in a message to the country to mark its centenary.

Mr Johnson said on Twitter: “Throughout 2021, in its centenary year, the Government will continue to showcase all the brilliant things Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK and the world, from its world-class fintech industry and research capabilities, to its inspiring young people, and its vibrant culture of arts and sport.

“It is also important that we pause to reflect on the complex history of the last 100 years. People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the globe, will approach this anniversary in different ways, with differing perspectives.

“While this is a moment of shared reflection, it is also an important opportunity to come together to celebrate Northern Ireland and build towards a better and even brighter future for all its people.”

In the coming weeks every school will be presented with a native tree to plant in their grounds while an extensive young people’s programme will explore what the future will look like in the next 100 years.

The Centenary Rose, a flower the British government said would represent reflection and hope, will be produced in Northern Ireland and planted in the gardens of the royal residence at Hillsborough Castle in Co Down.

A Centenary Rose will also be presented to the queen for her own garden and there will be a decorative rose pin designed and produced in the UK, to be worn by VIPs at centenary events and given to programme participants. – PA