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A defining moment?

Mike Nesbitt : Mike Nesbitt is UUP MLA for Strangford As a broadcast journalist during the Troubles, I have some sense of how difficult it is to find the right words to sum up the mood of a country.

I felt the Queen’s speech reflected the desire of her audience for a generosity of spirit, achieved from the moment of her opening remark, spoken in the Irish language.

The media focused on whether she would say ‘sorry’, but, as an ex-Victims’ Commissioner, I know many victims feel the ‘s’-word is too easy and shallow, compared to swimming in the deeper waters of acknowledgement.

So, again, the Monarch got it right by spending time recognising all those acts that could have been done differently, or not at all. It amounted to a more thoughtful and committed acknowledgement of the past than a ‘sorry’.

It was also clever to make implicit reference to the murder of her relative, Lord Mountbatten. The Queen is, and represents, many things.

According to the definition of ‘victim’ in the 2006 Order, one thing Her Majesty can claim to be is a victim, but one who used a unique occasion to rise above her own loss to help two nations focus on a better future.

Malachi O’Doherty:

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Malachi O’Doherty is a writer and broadcaster

The Queen’s visit to Ireland was a truly historic and remarkable occasion. Not that long ago, few people — myself included — would ever have thought such an event possible.

The visit was a triumph. I watched Her Majesty’s speech from Dublin Castle and was really moved by her remarks and how she delivered them with great dignity and sensitivity.

I truly hope that the successful visit heralds another significant milestone on our journey to lasting peace.

It has been years of hard work by people right across the community that ultimately made such a visit possible.

Her Majesty showed an awareness of the impact of our troubled past on the lives of ordinary people when she spoke of the stories which are lived, but do not make it into solemn history books.

People of a mind to build bridges — even though it can take a long time — will eventually achieve their aim and I pay tribute to the sterling work of the President of Ireland in this respect.

Hopefully, the visit can act as a catalyst for further reconciliation and for meeting the challenge of building a shared society.

Baroness May Blood is campaign chair of the Integrated Education Fund

There are few words easier to lip read than ‘Wow’. And President McAleese said it twice — to be sure everyone shared in her astonishment, feigned or otherwise, at the little bit of Gaelic that the Queen had been rehearsed in: “A Uachtarain agus a cairde.”

She was saying: “President and friends.” And what followed was as rehearsed and as wooden as any Christmas Day message to her subjects.

People will be florid in their praise of the Monarch’s generosity, but she is no orator.

Still, you don’t have to be a great performer to make an impact. The message from her was clear and it was strong and significant.

What Britain has been saying to us, even more eloquently since David Cameron took office than before, is that she is no enemy of Ireland.

There may be people here who regard England as the sassenach foe, the oppressor and tormentor of our people for centuries.

Through the apology for Bloody Sunday, to the statement George Osborne made about friendship with Ireland, when underwriting a portion of the financial bail-out, to the Queen standing reverentially for A Soldier’s Song, the message is plain: Britain bears no animosity whatever towards Ireland.

I am not wowed by this message, but what I am wowed by is the trouble that is being taken to deliver it over and over again.

David McKittrick:

David McKittrick writes for The Independent

When asked to write this piece, I was in the Irish history section of Hodges Figgis in Dublin, surrounded by books on difficult, contentious topics.

The Williamite Wars was one of them, featuring King Billy on his white horse. So was God's Executioner — its grim cover portrait of Cromwell particularly suited to the title.

Nearby was The Famine — an especially depressing-looking work.

Dissent Into Treason dealt with 1798; No Surrender Here turned out not to be about Ulster loyalism, but about the civil war of the 1920s. Near the door was How The Peace Was Won, picturing Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, guffawing.

Neither figure featured prominently in the Royal events this week, but practically everyone else of note in the peace process did and the Sinn Fein stance reacting to the visit seemed quite measured.

Many of the books dealt with chapters of history which created enduring bitterness and resentments.

Some were on the type of topics the Queen probably had in mind when she spoke of “things which we would wish had been done differently, or not at all.”

The burdens of history are not simply golng to go away.

But new thoughts occurred: what if the visit succeeds in its purpose of re-casting it all in a different light, of bringing a more benign glow?

What if — against all the odds — everyone can win? What if Irish history is to have a happy ending?

Arthur Edwards:

Arthur Edwards is the doyen of Royal photographers

The Queen’s speech was very, very moving. I haven’t heard anything so dramatic since she addressed the nation after Diana’s death.

I was photographing the receiving line and, as guests came up to her, they said “It’s been a long time, ma’am, but you’ve made it at last.”

Everybody was so charming and welcoming, as the Queen pointed out when she referred to the amazing Irish hospitality.

I’ve been photographing the Queen for around 35 years and I would say she’s really enjoying her trip.

Using Irish to start the speech was the Queen’s own idea. Apparently, she pored over every word and every comma.

And it was brilliant — especially the passages about the British and Irish having good family ties.

She also said Northern Ireland was a great place to be after the Good Friday Agreement.

In a way, what she said was as moving as the ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance. Can you imagine how the National Anthem sounded there?

I saw Iris Robinson in the line-up and she received a great welcome. I don’t know what they said to each other, but it was friendly.

The Queen knows who I am. I sent her some pictures of William’s wedding and she thanked me.

As a longtime Royal observer, I would say this visit has been special.


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