Queen Elizabeth focuses on reconciliation in the North
Monarch praises Northern Ireland's people and politicians for 'making the impossible possible'
Queen Elizabeth visits Crumlin Road Gaol with Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and First Minister Peter Robinson. Photograph: Paul Faith - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
In the one speech she made during her three-day visit to Northern Ireland, Queen Elizabeth focused on the theme of reconciliation and of her hope that Belfast would represent for the world an example of a city overcoming differences. The British monarch, who concludes her visit to Northern Ireland today, also spoke of the difficulties of peace-building and the many challenges ahead.
She was making her comments just a couple of weeks before north Belfast again will become the scene of concern because of Twelfth of July parading tensions. “We have learnt a lot in those years about ourselves, each other and how societies can only grow and flourish if they are built on trust, respect, justice and inter-dependence,” she said at a lunch in Belfast City Hall hosted by the new SDLP lord mayor Nichola Mallon.
The queen noted that it was almost half a century since she was in City Hall, without making reference to the fact that this absence was almost certainly due to the long-standing unionist-nationalist political divisions in the councils.
“It is a great pleasure to be back and to be here with representatives of every part of the community,” she said in front of an audience of unionist, SDLP and Sinn Féin councillors and other cross-community representatives.
Her carefully phrased comments were not quite of the import of her Dublin Castle speech in 2011, when she referred to “things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all”, but her desire for an end to community divisions and a cementing of the political process was clear.
“I know there are many challenges ahead and peacemaking is not always an easy task,” she said, “but you have come this far by turning the impossible into the possible; and as you face the future and difficulties that may appear insurmountable, always remember that the thoughts and prayers of millions, including my own, are with you.”
She referred to how her grandfather, King George V, speaking in City Hall in 1921, called for a “new era of peace, contentment and good will” in Ireland. “The world yearns for examples of positive transformation and of people overcoming differences,” Queen Elizabeth added. “I hope and believe that Belfast will continue to be one such living example.”
She delivered her speech shortly after touring the old Crumlin Road jail in north Belfast with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, both of whom served brief periods in the prison.