British Queen addresses Irish dignitaries at state banquet

14:33, May 19, 2011      

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Irish President Mary McAleese (2nd R) welcomes guests before the banquet for visiting British Queen Elizabeth II (2nd L) at the Dublin Castle in Dublin, capital of Ireland, May 18, 2011. It is the first time since the establishment of the Irish state in 1922 that a reigning British monarch has visited. (Xinhua/Maxwell Photography)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday evening acknowledged the painful legacy between Britain and Ireland but stressed the importance of bowing to the past without being bound by it.

Speaking at a state banquet at St. Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle, the British Queen said no one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that now exist between the two islands.

"So much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

"These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all," she said.

The Queen's speech was in response to and address by Irish President Mary McAleese who said that although the past cannot be changed both nations have chosen to change the future.

"W.B. Yeats once wrote in another context that 'peace comes dropping slow.' The journey to peace has been cruelly slow and arduous but it has taken us to a place where hope thrives and the past no longer threatens to overwhelm our present and our future. The legacy of the Good Friday Agreement is already profound and encouraging. We all of us have a duty to protect, nurture and develop it," said McAleese.

The state banquet was attended by over 160 dignitaries from the worlds of politics, religion, the arts and sport. One of those in attendance was British Prime Minister David Cameron who was on his first official visit to Ireland.

The banquet at Dublin Castle was the culmination of the second day of the Queen's four-day visit to the Irish Republic, the first ever visit by a reigning British monarch to Ireland.

Source: Xinhua
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