April 7 2014 Changing the future still more

Almost three years ago in May 2011 very many people in Ireland watched in amazement as Elizabeth II, the Queen of Britain paid homage to Irish people who died fighting for freedom from the oppression of her country.  This is a short post I made at that time:

Choosing to change the future:Queen Elizabeth II in Ireland

Living in Ireland, it is hard to ignore the momentous events taking place in our country at the moment.

An Irish army officer at the President’s residence, announces Queen Elizabeth II   –  ”Banríon Eilís a Dó”.

A short time later, an Irish military band plays ‘God Save The Queen, the British national anthem. The location is one of  the most iconic sites in Ireland – the Garden of Remembrance, dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom. The President of Ireland and the British Monarch ascend the 22 steps to the  memorial sculpture to lay wreaths.

The Queen steps forward to lay her wreath. She steps back, then bows her head in respect for those who died for freedom – died fighting against her country. It is a poignant moment.

The one minute’s silence that follows is intense and emotional; it brings a tear to many watching – whether present or watching on television. Kathy Sheridan in the Irish Times wrote: ”a host of old ghosts, dear and gentle, fierce and austere, hovered around a small, elderly woman, dressed in pretty ivory and sage, standing in homage before a sculpture inspired by the legend of the tragic Children of Lir and Yeats’s Easter 1916 ”

It was indeed a symbolism beyond words.


Today April 7, 2014, the President of Ireland makes the first state visit ever by an Irish head of State to the United Kingdom. It is a proud moment for the many tens of thousands of Irish people who, down the decades, have ‘taken the boat’ out of this country looking for new and better lives across the water. In that Kingdom they sought and they found employment and an escape from poverty. They worked on roads, construction sites, tunnels, building the infrastructure that made Britain, and most importantly, they sent money  home to their families in Ireland.  It is recognized that the money sent by migrant workers  played a large part in the economic and social development of the Irish Republic.
Men and women from Ireland,   be they ‘tatty-hokers’ navvies, radio or tv personalities, actors, authors, clerical workers, soccer players, doctors, nurses, IT consultants, hospitality workers, refuse collectors – have shaped that society and are happy to call it ‘home’. They live there happily without hangups or begrudgery. They are proud of their Irishness, and proud of their British localities. Their Irishness is not defined by an angry agenda based on long gone history  such as that expounded by many of the Irish American diaspora. We in Ireland have moved on – we can look back at our history to see where we have been and learn from it, and we can look forward to changing the future still more.

Over the next few days, President Michael D Higgins as a guest of  Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom, is choosing to continue to change the future of our two nations. And once again, the symbolism will be beyond words.


Michael D. Higgins. President of Ireland Image Wikimedia


Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish Diaspora, Social Change

20 responses to “April 7 2014 Changing the future still more

  1. cindy

    if only we (all humans) could learn the art of forgiveness perhaps we would take better care of our planet and think about the future of our children.

    • Cindy. That is so true, but I guess mankind does not ever really learn. But we live in hope that we will continue to enjoy excellent relationships with our nearest neighbour, with whom we have had such a bloody history.
      Thank you so much for visiting and for your comment which is most welcome.

  2. I visited the Garden of Remembrance on my first visit to Ireland. My cousin Betty took me there on our walking tour of Dublin one sunny day in June of 2000. I took photos of the inscription and the sculpture and wasn’t really moved until I got the film developed and read that moving bit of prose. If I remember correctly, it is written in Irish, English, and French.

    I couldn’t find that photo, but did find a print of an old email with the text:

    “We Saw a Vision

    In the darkness of despair, we saw a vision. We lit the light of hope and it was not extinguished. In the desert of discouragement, we saw a vision. We planted a tree of valour and it blossomed.

    In the winter of bondage we saw a vision. We metted the snow of lethargy, and the river of resurrection flowed from it.

    We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river. The vision became a reality. Winter became summer. Bondage became freedom. And this we left to you as your inheritance.

    Oh generations of freedom remember us. The generation of the vision.”

    Now if you happen to attempt to read this to a group of attentive Irish researchers, you, or at least I, had a difficult time to read this unaffected.

    You can see the images and read the text in English and Irish at www,wikipedia.org here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_of_Remembrance_(Dublin)

    I do remember watching the Queen lay the wreath on the news wrap-up. It was just a video excerpt and I remember thinking the Queen heartless as she did not shed a single tear. And now I wonder if that came for her later like it did for me and think how hard it must have been for her to do this at all. She must have had a thought or two of the past and could not have felt 100% safe. Yes, it is a different world now and we are blest to witness event such as this.

    Thank you for another great post.

    • Thank you for the detail of the poem in the Garden of Remembrance,which you found so moving. There too is that beautiful sculpture based on the legend of the Children of Lir. Who knows what anyone is thinking in such sombre surroundings? I am pretty certain that she felt safe enough, but if she did not, then may have felt that the pilgrimage was worth the risk, as she has worked hard on building good relations between our two nations for 20 years. She was in a country where her family was blown to bits by the IRA in 1979, so I am in no doubt but that she felt the hand of history throughout her visit. This generation is indeed blessed to witness such a sea change in the relationships between our two nations. Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Brilliant post, SV. I agree that the visit is absolutely momentous and I can think of no one better to represent Ireland than Michael D! Of course, I’m a little biased, given that he is a sociologist and poet, but he has such depth and breath of view.

  4. I think the strongest leaders are those with compassion.

    • You are so right – compassion is indeed a wonderful characteristic and it can manifest itself in so many ways. Queen Elizabeth took the initiative in improving relations between our two countries over 20 years ago and we are fortunate enough to have had 3 successive Presidents of Ireland with excellent pedigree in matters requiring extraordinary compassion and empathy. They have personal experience in areas such as human rights, reconciliation, and work for peace and justice in many parts of the world. Thank you so much for your your comment!

  5. It’s so good to see Ireland and England moving forward–such fine peoples. I hope those who want to continue to fight the battles and hold the grudges end up losing their power.

    • Hi Kerry-Can. It is so good indeed – especially for those of us who live here. There will always be diversity of opinion – a good thing in a democracy. We do have a way to go yet, but we are well on the way! We have seen enough bloodshed on both sides.
      Thank you so much for your comment!

  6. So glad you posted this. Lovely to get that reminder of the Queen’s visit in 2011. I started out a cynic at the beginning of that week, but truly she warmed my heart. So wonderful to witness her Garden Of Remembrance gestures too on live TV. She did wonderful work in that garden for all of us and for future generations.

    And I am sure you followed both speeches at Windsor Castle tonight. Isn’t Michael D just so eloquent? I love his writing. He worked the theme of shelter and shadow so wonderfully well into his speech and reminded us of the old Irish proverb describing so beautifully our interdependence on close neighbours.

    ” Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid” (We live in the shelter of one another)

    • Glad you enjoyed it! ER certainly did push out the boundaries on her visit!
      The speeches were wonderfully positive – loved Michael D’s two speeches – and I am certain that he wrote them himself. Oh to have such a way with words…Brilliant stuff indeed!
      And the UK to be part of our 1916 centenary celebrations?? Well! I look forward to that !

  7. In a way the Heads of State are catching up with the rest of us. In my experience there has always been an easy relationship between the Irish and English people. Both countries welcome incomers without a second thought as long as they come with open mind and a willingness to contribute to their new country in whatever way they can. Michael D is a great figurehead for Ireland.

    • Hello Roy. This is true now I think. My experience as an Irish immigrant in the UK 1966 – 1982 was not always positive. I lived there through the aftermath of the awful bombings and it was not good to be Irish as we were all tarred with the same brush.I had a very negative experience with my boss at work who treated me as though I had planted them, and she also had a huge issue with Ireland’s support of Germany during the war. It was a difficult time – it could not happen nowadays thankfully with the racism laws! In more recent times we have certainly been ‘re-invented ‘and this is A GOOD THING! It is often unappreciated I think how easily we could/can travel over and back both ways without any paperwork.
      Michael D is indeed a wonderful envoy for our country! We have managed to have 3 wonderful Presidents in a row who I think have worked hard on getting the good relations onto a formal footing,right at the top!
      Good days, watching all of this on TV.
      Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Yes actually I ought to have remembered about those tense times – I was still living in Birmingham at the time of the pub bombings there. And indeed ny own parents weren’t always welcomed with open arms when they went over in the 50s. But it’s much better today.

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