A great and proud time for the Irish in Britain : the chronicle.ie

A great and proud time for the Irish in Britain

| April 18, 2014

President Michael D Higgins’ State visit to the UK was a real triumph and must have been very uplifting for Irish people in Britain. I have visited Windsor on many occasions and everything about it shouts out ‘Royal’.

The pictures of an Irish President travelling in style through the streets of that town last week, as Irish flags fluttered in the wind side by side with Union Jacks, was amazing.

Queen and President

Such an image would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago. Indeed, even a few years ago it hardly seemed likely.

But whatever joy people on this side of the water experienced from this amazing scene can you imagine how Irish people in Britain must have felt?.

You could see the genuine emotion on their faces as they watched the carriage with Michael D. pass by. If you think back to what some of those people faced when they emigrated to England back in the 1950s and 60s you can well imagine why they would have been emotional.

They faced a very tough situation, both in terms of the types of employment they could get and the sort of accommodation which they were forced to take. They were really second class citizens and that continued for many years, made worse during the 1970s when the IRA bombing campaign resulted in many Irish people being the target of vicious attacks.

How far these people had come from the time they couldn’t get a decent place to live and had to settle for the jobs no one else wanted to now watching their President being carried along in a Royal carriage.

And as Enda Kenny rightly pointed out last week the Irish have come a long way in Britain from the time when the only jobs they could hope to secure were at the lower end of the scale to now sitting in virtually all the major boardrooms in the country.

For some, however, all the celebration surrounding the visit was soured by the presence of Martin McGuinness at the banquet. In particular the father of one of the Omagh bomb victims protested against him dining with the Queen.

His anger is understandable and he was right to protest. However, no matter how painful it is for some, we just have to move on and the decision of McGuniness to accept the Queen’s invitation was very significant and illustrates in a very clear way just how far the Republican movement has moved.

Yes, of course we must remember the past, and we have to have great sympathy for all those who mourn loved  ones lost at the hands of the IRA, but to stay in the past is to deny the future a chance.

As you would expect, right wing publications in the UK had a field day at the sight of the ex-IRA commander dining at the Queen’s table but it does indicate just how far all sides in both countries have moved on when such a thing is possible.

And on a less serious note don’t the British do ceremonial really well. I’d sit and watch the spectacle of their parades and functions all day.

Category: Lifestyle