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Ireland greets Queen Elizabeth II on first visit by a British monarch in 100 years

Queen Elizabeth II lands in Ireland at a military airbase named after an Irish nationalist whom the British executed for treason in 1916. Her visit shows how far Anglo-Irish relations have come after a bloody past.

May 17, 2011|By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from London — Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday became the first British monarch ever to visit an independent Ireland, a historic trip that shows how far Anglo-Irish relations have come.

The queen arrived in Dublin on Tuesday morning, landing at a military airbase named after an Irish nationalist whom the British executed for treason in 1916. Later, in a solemn and highly symbolic ceremony, she laid a wreath in a garden dedicated to those who died in the struggle to free Ireland from the often harsh rule of her ancestors.

Not since a visit by the queen's grandfather exactly a century ago has a British monarch set foot in the south of Ireland. For years, the idea was anathema to many Irish, who remember how many of their forebears suffered under British rule.

But official ties have matured into a regular, working and even warm relationship between two sovereign states that are, after all, each other's closest neighbor.

"It is at last possible to say that the relationship between Britain and Ireland is simply normal. It is what it ought to be between neighboring countries bound together by strong economic, political, cultural, social, sporting and personal ties," the Irish Times said in an editorial Tuesday.

But mindful that some emotions still run high over Britain and Ireland's bloody past, authorities have mounted a massive security operation — said to be the biggest in Irish history — to ensure that the visit goes smoothly.

One of its first tests came on Monday, when authorities found and disabled a bomb on a bus bound for Dublin. In London, also on Monday, Scotland Yard was on alert over a bomb threat believed to be from republican dissidents in Northern Ireland.

The state visit was announced last year. The queen is expected to spend four days touring the country, including a stop at a stud farm in southeast Ireland, reflecting her interests and skills as an accomplished horsewoman.

henry.chu@latimes.com

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