“IRELAND is never going to be the same again.”
That was the verdict of East Londonderry Independent MLA David McClarty after he attended the historic wreath-laying ceremony by The Queen and the Irish President at the Irish War Memorial Garden in Islandbridge last Wednesday.
Mr McClarty had been invited to the ceremony in his capacity as MLA for this area and said he was “privileged and humbled” to attend the event which was just one of many symbolic and landmark parts of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Republic of Ireland last week.
David told the Times: “I went to Dublin the night before and all the guests had to meet at the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham from where we were bussed an 8am to the venue where there was a marquee which supplied us with coffee.
“There were about 300 to 400 guests from all over the north and south of Ireland. There were so many people to chat to that I really didn’t notice the time going in until 11am when we left the marquee and went to the Memorial itself.
“Dead on noon the Queen and the President arrived. There were a huge amount of security. I could see officers sand security men with binoculars everywhere and armed Gardai. There were also planes which flew overhead as well as a helicopter.”
David explained the emotion experienced by everyone there when the national anthems from the two countries were played.
“When the British national anthem was played, I thought to myself it’s one thing singing the national anthem when the occasion warrants it, but to sing it when the monarch is actually there was really quite different. It was very moving.
“The Last Post was played then there was a minute’s silence to remember and recognise all those from Ireland who died in World War I. Then the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland was played and this was sung with great gusto by the citizens, as had the British national anthem been.
“Events of that visit have really moved relations forward and Ireland is never going to be the same again. This is the culmination of a lot of work over many years not least by the President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.
“When they took up office 14 years ago she said the by-word was going to be ‘bridge building’ and she has certainly done that by inviting many people from the Unionist tradition to Aras an Uchtarain and she even holds mini Twelfths in the grounds. She has done a lot to dispel myths and fears which have arisen.”
As well as British and Irish citizens, David also had the opportunity meet with other representatives of various countries including the Phillipines ambassador to Ireland and an attaché from Thailand.
“That was the wonderful thing about having so much time on your hands, I was able to talk to so many people.
“I was also taken aback by how many people from the south had kept up to date with the recent elections in Northern Ireland and were aware of my own situation and went out of their way to come over and congratulate me.
“It was a very memorable occasion. It was a humbling occasion and I felt very privileged to be there at an event which was history in the making.”