TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said that Queen Elizabeth’s 2011 visit to Ireland was “the crowning moment” of the peace process and the development of Anglo-Irish relations.
He said that the late monarch has been a constant in the world political order and expressed Ireland’s understanding of the “enormous change” her passing represents.
President Michael D Higgins praised the queen’s “exceptional” ability to combine a sense of formality with “a great capacity for connection with the people”.
Tributes have continued to pour in for the queen, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, with her close connection to Cork and her role in helping to build bridges between Ireland and Britain receiving much praise from Cork personalities.
She and her late husband Prince Philip visited Cork in May 2011. During her visit to the city, the queen famously received a tour of the English Market.
Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald, who was lord mayor of Cork when now King Charles III and Camilla, now queen consort, visited Cork in 2018, said the late Queen Elizabeth spoke very favourably with her son about the “warm reception” she received during her visit to Cork.
“His visit to Cork was very much on the back of the experience that the queen had in Cork,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “That is what he told me, and he was genuine, I believe. He spoke of the warm reception that she received and it was inevitable he would come to Cork City and visit the English Market after the conversations he had with her.
“That was obviously a conversation held in Buckingham Palace about Cork City and the next visit by Prince Charles saw Cork being included. It was great to put Cork on the map.
“It is all about the hospitality of the people. The reception she got as she relaxed and engaged with people was a remarkable credit to the people of the city.”
Today, the Taoiseach said that the Queen’s most enduring legacy in an Irish context would “unquestionably” be her historic visit to Ireland, which he had been “very anxious that it would happen” in his years previous as minister for foreign affairs.
He said that her trip to Cork as part of that visit will be “a visit that will never be forgotten”.
He added: “In the context of all that has gone on between Britain and Ireland over the centuries, it definitely closed one chapter and opened up a new chapter, and it was the culmination really of all the work that went into the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
“The head of state of the UK coming to Ireland represented the crowning moment, if you like, for all that had gone before in terms of peacebuilding and in terms of creating a new political order on the island of Ireland.”
Meanwhile, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme on Friday morning President Michael D Higgins praised the Queen’s “exceptional” ability to combine a sense of formality with “a great capacity for connection with the people”.
“There was that capacity to bridge the formal and the informal”.
He said that the preparations for the 2011 visit to Ireland were “complex” and required “some subtlety and very good diplomacy”.
“To be able to cover all these different areas of human interaction and humanity, that’s a very very significant achievement.”
Mr Higgins said that during his visit to Windsor Castle in 2014, the first State visit to the UK by an Irish President, the Queen was insistent that progress made in relation to Anglo-Irish ties “must be kept going”.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire agreed that Queen Elizabeth II played a significant role in seeking to heal the wounds of the past.
“She undoubtedly was committed to improving relationships and understanding between Britain and Ireland and played a significant role in seeking to heal the wounds of the past. She also felt a connection with Cork after her visit.
“Undoubtedly, she means a great deal to British people around the world and in Ireland. Her loss will be felt deeply by them. My party and I extend our condolences to her family and the British people.”
Cork TD and the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath tweeted that her passing is a truly historic moment.
“Sincere condolences to all our friends in the UK on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Her passing is a truly historic moment. Her lifelong record of public service is remarkable. She did much to build reconciliation between our two islands.”
Dr Jay Roszman of the School of History at University College Cork said she helped to build bridges and thaw relations between Ireland and the UK.
“The way she was received by the President and her travels around the country and the popularity that she garnered personally helped to thaw relations between Ireland and the UK in a post troubles era where a coming together was important. It helped to build bridges.”
A book of condolence was opened by the Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde at Cork City Hall on Friday morning, while the national flag flew at half mast over City Hall as a mark of respect for the late Queen Elizabeth II.