Queen Elizabeth lays wreath at Garden of Remembrance

Queen Elizabeth II has attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance on the first day of her historic State…

Queen Elizabeth II has attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance on the first day of her historic State visit.

In a hugely symbolic gesture reflecting a new era in relations between the countries, the British monarch bowed her head as she laid a wreath at the memorial for those who died fighting for Irish freedom, before observing a minute’s silence.

President Mary McAleese and the Queen were greeted and escorted around the memorial by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Army Chief of Staff Seán McCann.

During the ceremony, the Irish Army band played God Save The Queen, an act unthinkable only few decades ago.


The poem Rinneadh Aisling Dúinn (We Saw A Vision), which is inscribed on the wall of the Garden of Remembrance, was read aloud in Irish by Capt Joe Freeley, from the Second Infantry Battalion in Cathal Brugha Barracks, before the Last Post was sounded.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the event alongside former Fianna Fáil taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern

The sound of fireworks let off by republican protesters close to the Garden of Remembrance could be heard as the wreath-laying ceremony was being held. Gardaí were also involved in minor scuffles with Éirigí supporters who were rallying in protest at the Queen’s visit.

The Queen’s visit has prompted the biggest security operation ever mounted by the State, with some 10,000 gardaí and Defence Forces personnel deployed on security-related details.

The last leg of the Queen's itinerary today saw her visit Trinity College, established by her ancestor Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, to view the Book of Kells.

The royal party was greeted on arrival at the university by Provost John Hegarty, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and the college chancellor and former president Mary Robinson.

The Queen was escorted on a tour of the old library building and its famous Long Room chamber by the college librarian Robin Adams. A reception in honour of the Queen was also held in the Long Room, where she and Prince Philip met Trinity dignitaries, scholars, musicians and artists.

The British monarch was earlier welcomed by President McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin, marking the official start of her State visit, the first by a reigning British monarch in 100 years.

The 85-year-old monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip were greeted on the steps of the Áras by Mrs McAleese in front of a combined Army guard of honour.

After meeting the President and her husband, the Queen and Prince Philip were escorted inside the Áras and introduced to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, before being invited to sign the visitors’ book in the State reception room.

As part of the ceremonial welcome at the Áras, the Queen received a 21-gun salute in the forecourt of the residence, followed by a rendition of the British and Irish national anthems played by an Army band. A detachment of the Army Air Corps performed a ceremonial fly-by as the anthems were played.

The Queen later inspected a military guard of honour while the band played a piece of music written in her honour by composer Bill Whelan.

She also planted a tree in the Áras garden near the peace bell, which was placed there in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.

President McAleese held a brief bilateral meeting with the Queen before hosting a lunch for both delegations and a small number of guests in the main dining room.

The guests included the North’s former first minister David Trimble, former SDLP leader John Hume, sports commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh and writer Edna O’Brien.

The royal flight, carrying the Queen and Prince Philip, touched down at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel shortly before midday. The Queen was wearing an emerald green coat and hat in a symbolic gesture. She changed into an ivory coat with olive green trim for the day's later engagements.

The Queen was greeted on the tarmac by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, in front of an Army Air Corps guard of honour, before being transferred, under a tight security cordon, to the Áras for the official State welcome.

The British delegation also included foreign secretary William Hague and British ambassador to Ireland Julian King, and the Queen's private secretary Christopher Geidt.

Mrs McAleese earlier described the visit as an “extraordinary moment” in Irish history that personified the determination in both countries to forge a better future.

Key locations to be visited by the Queen are today in effect under Garda and Defence Forces lockdown and the largest uniformed policing presence Dublin has seen is also in evidence.

The Army has deployed armed troops to patrol Áras an Uachtaráin and Farmleigh.

A no-fly zone will apply for short periods in the skies when the Queen is moving between engagements.

She will not conduct any spontaneous walkabouts or hand-shaking with members of the public during her visit to the Republic. Government officials also said the precise time and duration of each leg of her four-day itinerary would be withheld for security reasons.

The Taoiseach said he hoped the Queen would be shown a warm welcome by the people of Ireland.

Mr Kenny said the vast majority of people in Ireland welcomed the Queen's visit, adding that those opposed to the visit were entitled to protest but that he hoped they would not “embarrass the country”.

British prime minister David Cameron described the visit as “a huge step forward” following the settling of a lot of the political issues and difficulties that had divided the two countries. He said the new relationship enabled “the natural friendship we have for each other” to come out.

Tomorrow the Queen will meet Mr Kenny at Government Buildings and lay a wreath at the Irish War Memorial in Islandbridge. Later she will visit Croke Park and attend a State dinner in Dublin Castle hosted by President McAleese.

On Thursday the Queen will visit the National Stud and the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud. Later she will attend a celebration at the national convention centre in Dublin hosted by the British embassy.

On Friday she will visit the Rock of Cashel and Coolmore Stud before heading to Cork for her final engagements.

Members of the public have been urged to use public transport where possible today in Dublin as widespread traffic restrictions are in place.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times