8:00 PM EDT, May 22, 2011
I thought about titling this piece “Hell Freezes Over” but couldn’t come up with it in Gaelic, and when I called a cousin whose Gaelic is far superior to mine he was at a pub and I couldn’t wait that long to start writing.
Instead what I came up with – or as close as I could in Gaelic – is Goodbye and God’s Blessing Upon You. That would be for the Queen of England, and I am not the only Irishman saying such a thing this week. Queen Elizabeth’s visit pulled off what most thought was impossible for generations. The first British monarch to visit Ireland in more than century repaired decades of broken bridges. To put this in some kind of perspective, Elizabeth’s great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria. Do you know what they did with her visage when the south was finally free? They took her statue and buried it.
So what happened to this Queen? She smiled for five days, something her aides said they could not remember. She apologized to the Irish for the suffering caused by the British and she even went to County Cork, the home of Irish hero Michael Collins, and was not only greeted warmly but saw the Union Jack on display. Even Sinn Fein softened its criticism of the visit. She wore green (and looked beautiful in green) as she laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance and then went to Croake Park the site of the original Bloody Sunday.
Had Elizabeth hung upside down and kissed the Blarney Stone with a Guinness in one hand she could not have impressed the Irish more.
The Queen may just be hitting her stride at the age of 85, so maybe the United Nations should think of sending her to the Middle East for a week or two.
So now President Obama is off to Ireland to visit the distant relatives in Moneygall. He has one tough act to follow but is pretty much guaranteed a warm and at times raucous welcome. With the Celtic tiger now fangless, about the best he can do is stimulate the economy with sales of t-shirts and trinkets.
It has been a tough couple of years for Ireland, so there is no price one can put on the positives coming from the visits of a queen and a president.
The Irish deserve all of this and more.Slainte
Copyright © 2013, WSBT-TV