Queen Elizabeth hails new era in Anglo-Irish relations


Queen Elizabeth used her annual Christmas broadcast to speak of the “long-term friendship” that has now been forged between Britain and Ireland.

The British monarch reflected publicly for the first time on her successful state visit to Ireland last May in an upbeat broadcast which included footage of a number of the sites and landmarks she, and husband Prince Philip, visited during their four-day trip.

She spoke warmly of the bond that now exists between the two nations, stressing that the future ties between the two countries should fill everyone with hope.

Reflecting on her “memorable and historic” visit here, she said: “The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us with hope. Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long-term friendship.

“It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today and so give us hope for tomorrow.”

The speech, broadcast on Sky News for the first time, was recorded earlier this month - more than two weeks before the Duke Of Edinburgh was rushed to hospital for a blocked coronary artery.

Prince Philip (90) was still in hospital tonight, recovering from having a coronary stent fitted last Friday - and had missed a church service attended by the rest of the royal family.

On Christmas Eve traders at the Cork’s English market - which the royal couple visited on the final day of their State visit — sent their best wishes to the Prince, on hearing of his illness.

Butcher Tom Durcan was one of the many who wished him a speedy recocery, adding at “I’m very sad to hear he’s ill.”

Meanwhile, tourism chiefs here will be hoping millions will have tuned into today's speech and seen the footage of famous Irish landmarks.

The Queen, who wrote the speech herself, chose the theme of courage and hope in adversity in her annual message, stressing the “importance of family”.

She also noted the resilience of communities in New Zealand after earthquakes, Australia after flooding and Wales after the mining disaster at Gleision Colliery.

“We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families. It’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another.

“Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within.

“Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.”

Footage of Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton, as well as her granddaughter Zara Phillips’ to England rugby star Mike Tindall were also screened in what was a hugely successful year for the Royal Family — and once which has seen their popularity boosted massively at home and abroad, and not least in Ireland.

The monarch said: “The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of our two grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family togehter.”

The monarch also spoke of the importance of forgiveness and noted the world was “going through difficult times”.

“Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas.

“Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices. ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

She added: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves — from our recklessness or our greed.”