Former South Tipperary TD and Minister of State Martin Mansergh attended many of the key State functions in Dublin for Queen Elizabeth 11’s visit and was present at the Rock of Cashel on Friday to meet the monarch and Prince Philip again.
Mr Mansergh, who played a key role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process as a special adviser to the Irish Government, was among the large group of local dignitaries assembled at the Rock on Friday morning to greet Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at the end of their tour of the heritage site.
The former Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW was at the Rock of Cashel on the invitation of his successor Minister Brian Hayes.
But earlier in the week he attended the Garden of Remembrance ceremony, the State banquet at Dublin Castle where the Queen gave her acclaimed speech in his capacity as a member of the Council of State, which advises President Mary McAleese. And he was among the 2000 guests, who attended the concert in the new National Convention Centre at the invitation of the British Ambassador.
Mr Mansergh was appointed to the Council of State by President McAleese in 2004 in light of the the key role he played as the Irish Government’s Special Adviser on Northern Ireland during the peace process that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
As someone, who was involved in forging the peace settlement in the North, Mr Mansergh regards Queen Elizabeth 11’s historic Irish visit as the “last substantial bridge” in relations between Britain and Ireland that needed to be built.
“What was of enormous historical significance was the Queen’s attendance at the Garden of Remembrance and bowing her head to the people who fought for Irish freedom and independence, people who could have been killed or executed by the British crown,” he said.
He pointed out that in the period the Queen was brought up in the 1930s and 40s there wouldn’t have been a very benign attitude towards Ireland. There was resentment that the south of Ireland had separated from Britain and also that it was neutral during World War 11.
“I was brought up across the water and Ireland was resented by quite a lot of people well into the 50s and 60s. All of that is completely behind us now but it has taken a generation to do it,” Mr Mansergh recalled.
He said President McAleese deserved “enormous credit” for bringing about the first visit of a British monarch to the Irish republic and the good relationship she developed with Queen Elizabeth. He believed the royal visit did need to take place now in view of the fact that President McAleese will be leaving office in a few months time and the Queen is now on the throne 59 years.
Referring to British Prime Minister David Cameroon and British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s whistle stop visits earlier in the week, he noted it was the first time British government had underlined the economic inter-dependence between the two countries.
Mr Mansergh said he was delighted the Queen visited Co. Tipperary and he believes the Queen’s tour of the Rock of Cashel will certainly strengthen the site’s claim to be designated a World Heritage site and hopes it will have the same tourism impact as Queen Victoria’s visit to the lakes of Killarney in 1861.