Symbolism does not come cheap as recession-hit Ireland discovered on Tuesday when the Queen — the first British monarch ever to visit the independent Republic of Ireland — arrived in Dublin on a four-day visit whose security cost alone was estimated at €30 million with the country teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
The visit, hailed as a symbolic “turning point'' in the troubled and often violent history of Anglo-Irish relations, came amid a rise in dissident republic violence prompting one of the biggest security operations in living memory. Hours before the Queen's arrival, dubbed the “neighbour from hell'' by republican groups, a pipe bomb was found in the baggage compartment of a Dublin-bound bus with 30 passengers on board. It was defused in a controlled explosion.
Suspicious devices were also found at several other locations, though some turned out be “hoax bombs''. An Irish terror group issued code bombing warning for London, the first outside Northern Ireland in more than a decade.
To many, struggling to make ends meet, it seemed rather like a “Marie Antoinette moment” being presented with the Queen (pearls-and-all) when what they needed, they said, was bread and jobs. Despite the official hype, there was a palpable lack of public interest. One republican leader described the visit as a “parade of imperialism and pomp, a parade of state dinners and visits to stud farms''.
The security in Dublin was so tight that normal life was disrupted with large parts of the city cordoned off. In the city centre, republican activists clashed with the police and later held a noisy rally against the visit.
The last visit by a British monarch to Ireland was in 1911. The Queen will take part in a series of symbolic events intended to assuage the still lingering Irish resentment against the British rule.
Prime Minister David Cameron described it as “a great moment for people in Britain and people in Ireland to remember what it is we share”.