Irish diehards show their anger as history moves on
on Monday’s bomb threat to London and today’s massive operation to protect the Queen
Monday's bomb threat to London by dissident Irish Republicans had a distinctly retro feel. It was the first time the police on the mainland had received a serious warning from Irish terrorists in over 10 years.
The call came from a number somewhere in the Irish Republic and used an agreed codeword known only to police and the terrorists themselves. The chances are it was a 'nuisance' call designed to irritate and inconvenience Londoners rather than kill.
Nevertheless, together with the bus bomb found in County Kildare overnight, it is a reminder that Republican terrorists are still in business. They operate at least one highly effective terrorist organisation - the Real IRA.
It has been going about its murderous business in the Province for over a decade, starting with the Omagh Bombing of 1998. Just a few weeks ago it murdered a young constable from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. In 2009 it murdered two young soldiers waiting for a pizza delivery at their barracks in County Down. They were due to deploy to Afghanistan the following day.
We are clearly not where we expected to be. By this late stage of the peace process any diehard Irish Republicans were supposed to have been de-fanged - perhaps continuing as quaint folk museum pieces singing A nation once again and crying into their pints of Guinness in remote and backward villages.
Instead, in order to keep the Queen safe, Dublin will see the biggest security operation in its modern history. Armoured cars from the Irish army will patrol the streets and much of governmental Dublin will be sealed off; 120 armed British policemen will accompany Her Majesty.
Despite the risks, it's a visit both governments have been planning enthusiastically for years. As a mark of its importance David Cameron will travel to Ireland to attend the state dinner in Dublin Castle. It could turn out to be a game changer.
If you had said to any British soldier patrolling the Falls Road 20 years ago that one day fairly soon HM the Queen would pay a state visit to the Republic of Ireland he would have laughed at you. The Irish government was in the hands of men who went out of their way not to cooperate in British efforts to suppress the IRA.
A good example was Charles Haughey, three times prime minister during the 1970s to 1990s. He had burned the Union Jack on VE night outside Trinity College Dublin (where the Queen will inspect the Book of Kells) and was strongly suspected of running arms for the IRA while a government minister. His old boss Eamon de Valera, as prime minister, presented his condolences to the German ambassador at Dublin on the sudden death of Adolf Hitler.
Much of that chippy resentment seems to have gone. A quarter of the population watched the recent royal wedding live and there was quiet satisfaction in parts of the country's media that Prince William married in his shamrock-emblazoned uniform as Colonel of the Irish Guards. At the same time we on this side of the Irish Sea have at last realised what a brutal cock-up we made of the place over the last 600 years.
In recognition that Irish patriotism can come in many different forms, on the first day of her visit the Queen will lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in central Dublin which commemorates all those who have laid down their lives in the cause of Irish freedom starting with Wolf Tone's 1798 Rebellion.
The most honoured names are those who died in or were executed after the Easter Rising of 1916, including the schoolmaster poet Patrick Pearse. He read the 'Proclamation of the Republic' from the steps of the General Post Office at the start of the rebellion.
To be fair to the old colonial power, there have always been Englishmen who understood the strange and sometimes wild patriotism of the Irish. Charles Blackader (yes, really), the hard-bitten British general who presided over Pearse's court martial, said this afterwards:
"I have just done one of the hardest tasks I ever had to do... condemned to death one of the finest characters I have ever come across. There must be something very wrong in the state of things that makes a man like that a rebel. I don't wonder that his pupils adored him."
As the Queen stands next to the Irish President Mary McAleese it will be an extraordinary symbol of reconciliation on a par with the moving joint appearance at Verdun in 1984 by President Mitterand and Chancellor Kohl. The caravan of history will be visibly moving on. No wonder the diehards are angry. ·
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