Visit about moving on, say Gilmore and Hague

 

THE QUEEN’S visit represents an opportunity for Ireland and Britain to “move on” from their common history and build future relationships, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and British foreign secretary William Hague have said.

Speaking at a joint press conference to mark the visit, the two men stressed the significance of the event in relation to past history and future opportunities.

Mr Gilmore said the visit, in particular symbolic events such as the Queen’s visit to the Garden of Remembrance, was about “moving on from the pages of history”.

“The visit is also about moving on from our recent economic history. That is the project of the Government – that we move on and rebuild our economy and our reputation.”

Mr Hague agreed that the wreath-laying ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance was an important statement and was intended as one.

“It speaks to the past, but it does show that we’re able to move on to the future, and make the most of normal relationships with friendly neighbours.” The visit involved a great deal of recognition of the past, he said, and there was no “glossing over” of this past. Acknowledging the events of the past while showing how the two countries were moving on was the right approach, rather than seeing thing in terms of an apology.

He pointed out that although the Queen had made over 300 overseas visits, this one was “particularly special” because it involved Britain’s nearest neighbour and one of its most important trading partners.

“It marks the transformation of the relationship between Britain and Ireland in recent years, the strength of our economic, political and family ties and the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Gilmore described the visit as a hugely important day for the relationship between Britain and Ireland, a day when the two countries came to terms with the complex history which characterised the relationship between them.

It was also an opportunity to look forward to the future relationship and the enormous potential which existed for greater trade and business co-operation, he said.

Asked to respond to calls for the British government to release files on the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan bombings, Mr Hague said there were “legal constraints” under the European Court of Human Rights in relation to this. The matter had been discussed in the past by the two governments and could still be the subject of discussions.

Asked whether Ireland should abandon the euro, Mr Hague said he was not going to advise the people of Ireland on what was their own decision. He also declined to comment on Ireland’s campaign for a lower interest rate on its loan under the EU-IMF deal, saying he was not going to “get ahead” of the British chancellor.

Mr Hague welcomed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s recent announcement of a visa waiver programme allowing visitors who have a British visa to come to Ireland. This was an example of the unique co-operation between the states and would hopefully lead to an increase in trade and tourism.