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How will Ireland greet Queen Elizabeth's historic visit?

On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland. Ireland's prime minister characterized the trip as evidence of a 'growing up' of two peoples.

By Correspondent / May 16, 2011

Police patrol at the gates of Buckingham Palace in London, on May 16. Irish militants opposed to the peace process with Britain warned of a bomb in central London on Monday, a day before Queen Elizabeth makes a historic visit to Ireland, security sources said.

Luke MacGregor/Reuters

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Dublin, Ireland

On May 17, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first British monarch to visit to the Republic of Ireland, but amid a huge security operation, there is little open enthusiasm – or anger – at the move.

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The sight of Union Jacks being waved on Irish streets is an unlikely prospect. Yet organizers of a royal visit to Ireland hope that republican sentiment will be overwhelmed by majesty.

Signs indicate a nuanced response.

Independent of British rule since 1921 – or 1919, depending on how you calculate it – the Republic of Ireland will host the queen just six days before a second state visit by President Obama.

Quick to capitalize, Ireland’s tourism authority has labeled May “the month of welcomes.”

For three days, Queen Elizabeth will tour Ireland, including notable – in some cases contentious – locations in the capital, Dublin. Those include the Garden of Remembrance, a monument to those killed in Ireland’s war of independence from Britain, and sports stadium Croke Park, the site of the 1920 killing of 14 civilians and three republican operatives by the British Army in reprisal for the killing of 14 British agents by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Senior political figures have welcomed the visit as a reconciliatory move.

Speaking after a meeting with his British counterpart in April, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said: “I made the point that the vast majority of Irish people will welcome very warmly the Queen to Ireland.”

Mr. Kenny previously described the event as a sign of the “growing up of two countries and two peoples.”

It’s a view shared by Vincent O’Doherty, vice chairman of the British Irish Association, a group that encourages cooperation between the two countries.

“It comes logically from the 1998 referendum [in support of the peace process in Northern Ireland]. At some stage relations between the two countries have to be normalized and visits of heads of state are part of that,” he says.

A taciturn public

The public, however, is thus far notable by its absence. It is unimaginable that a crowd won’t turn out, at least to glimpse the spectacle, but the general response has been taciturn – despite Irish public distaste for British monarchy being at an all-time low after the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

“I don’t really care if she comes or not,” says Paul Cunningham, a stonemason who lives in rural County Donegal. “Maybe people in Dublin feel differently, but I doubt it.”

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