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14 January, 2013

by Dr Roddy Evans

Dr Roddy Evans
Dr Roddy Evans
James Roderick Evans was born in Co. Meath, Ireland, in 1923. He graduated in medicine from Trinity College, Dublin and the Adelaide Hospital in 1947 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1951. He practiced medicine in Dublin and London and later in Asia and South America and has travelled widely in the Middle East and Southern Africa. In 1971 he returned to live in Belfast, where he has experienced at first-hand the unfolding of the historic developments in Northern Ireland over the last 40 years.

In October 1995, some time before she was elected President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese attended a special reception in St James Palace, London, where she talked to the head of the Queen’s Household. An invitation from Queen Elizabeth to a private luncheon at Buckingham Palace followed in May 1996.

Thus began a friendship over the years that followed which led directly to the State visit of the Queen to Ireland in 2011. At a Banquet in Dublin Castle, the Queen, in a speech to the Irish nation, said, 'With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things we could have done differently or not at all.' This speech was of such power and healing that it liberated two nations from centuries of rancour and misunderstanding.

In 2012 the Queen visited Northern Ireland, where she and the Duke were given a tumultuous welcome. An historic handshake, both private and public, took place with Martin McGuiness, Deputy First Minister and formerly an IRA commander ...

Some reflections on the role played by Queen Elizabeth in Anglo-Irish relations 1995 – 2012

In the autumn of 1997, five candidates were standing for election to become President of Ireland; Mary Robinson, at that time the incumbent, had declined running for a second term. On 25 October that year, the following news item, written by ‘Quidnunc’ appeared in The Irish Times

McAleese has royal link
Would Queen Elizabeth vote for Mary McAleese? Possibly. As far as Quidnunc is aware, Mrs McAleese is the only one of the five presidential candidates personally known to her. The two first met in October 1995 at the special event in St James Palace, London, for the 150th anniversary of the three Queen’s Colleges – Belfast, Galway and Cork – attended by the then President Mary Robinson. Mrs McAleese got talking to Sir Simon Cooper, head of the Queen’s Household, about the position of nationalists in the North. An invitation from the Queen to a private lunch in Buckingham Palace followed in May 1996. There were eight guests in all including Sir Rupert Smith, GOC Northern Ireland. The North was the topic of conversation. Afterwards Mrs McAleese sent the Queen a copy of Seumas Heaney’s The Spirit Level. The Queen replied saying she hoped to have read it by her next meeting with President Robinson. If Mrs McAleese makes the Park, will Queen Elizabeth be her first State visitor?

That State visit by the Queen was not realised until May 2011. However, many non-State meetings between the Queen and Mary McAleese took place during the latter’s 14 years as President of Ireland. One such meeting was an occasion in Belgium when the Queen and President McAleese stood side by side at the commissioning of a round tower as a memorial honouring Irishmen, North and South, who died in The Great War 1914-1918. Together, the two Heads of State opened the Messines Peace Park.

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This article also appears on the Cain website

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