Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Croke Park to welcome Queen on historic trip

Balancing artist Eskil Ronningsbakken performing at the top of Croke Park in Dublin, where the Queen is to visit next month

The Queen will be steeped in the traditions and history of the GAA when she makes a historic visit to Croke Park next month.

In a visit that promises to symbolise the close relationship that has developed between Britain and Ireland in recent years, the Queen will also visit Dublin's Garden of Remembrance — which honours all those who fought for Irish freedom.

It is protocol for foreign heads of state visiting Ireland to pay their respects at the city centre site, where traditionally they do not lay a wreath but adjust a ribbon before the wreath is placed on a wooden stand.

The trip, from May 17 to 20, will be the first by a British sovereign to the Irish Republic and is hugely significant.

The GAA pledged to give her a warm welcome to the 82,000-seater stadium — the scene of the massacre of 14 civilians by British soldiers in 1920.

It said it wanted to showcase the world-renowned arena.

“We believe that this request reflects and acknowledges the special place of the GAA in the life and history of the nation,” the organisation said.

“We are confident that this historic visit to Croke Park will be welcomed by those who play, administer and support our games, at home and abroad, including of course throughout Britain.”

The GAA also said it hoped the visit would foster greater interest in its games from unionists.

GAA members were barred from serving with the British army or police in Northern Ireland under the controversial Rule 21 which was rescinded in 2001.

“In the best traditions of our Association, we will extend a warm welcome to Croke Park — a cead mile failte — to Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by the President and Dr [Martin] McAleese,” it said.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has however described the timing of the visit as “offensive” because it coincides with the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

The Queen’s itinerary will also include events at Trinity College Dublin, the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge and the Guinness Storehouse, and at Croke Park — the home of gaelic football and hurling.

Julian King, Britain's ambassador to Ireland, said: “The state visit programme announced by Buckingham Palace and Aras an Uachtarain is a wide-ranging and exciting celebration of the close ties between our two countries.”

”Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh will be able to experience at first hand the vibrant links that make our relationship with Ireland so important.”

“This is a historic visit that also celebrates our close modern partnership.”

President Mary McAleese, whose role as Ireland's head of state from 1997 was dominated by the “building bridges” theme, invited the Queen as her second term draws to an end this year.

Both she and the Queen will make speeches at a state dinner in Dublin Castle.

The Queen will also make a courtesy call on Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings during her four-day trip.

The Queen and the Duke will also make trips outside Dublin, including a tour of the Irish National Stud in Kildare, and a visit to Cashel, home to the Rock of Cashel, one of the most visited and spectacular tourist attractions in Ireland.background

History was made at Croke Park four years ago when the stadium opened its turnstiles to tens of thousands of Irish and English rugby fans for a Six Nations Championship clash. Gaelic grounds had been closed to so-called ‘foreign sports’ for decades.

While the host team thrashed the visitors, the rendition of God Save the Queen by the Garda band in the iconic home of gaelic games was respectfully observed.

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