The Queen made a powerful statement Wednesday night expressing "deep sympathy" to all who had suffered as a result of the troubled relations between England and Ireland.

She did not apologize for any British actions during the bitter conflicts between the two neighbours but said it is clear mistakes were made.

"To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy," she said at a state dinner hosted by Irish President Mary McAleese. "With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all."

The Queen, whose visit has been highlighted by memorable scenes of friendship and forgiveness, emphasized the positive in the rest of her brief speech, saying no one in past centuries could have imagined the bonds of friendship that now unite England and Ireland.

She proposed a toast to the people of Ireland, then said, "I love these clinking glasses," after the champagne flutes were raised and clinked.

Stops short of formal apology

Her speech may disappoint those who wanted a formal apology from the British monarch, but others will feel she came quite close to acknowledging British misdeeds in the fight against the Irish independence movement.

The speech marks her only scheduled comments during a planned four-day visit to Ireland —  the first ever to the republic by a reigning British monarch.

Her journey of reconciliation also took her Wednesday to the site of a notorious massacre where British troops killed 14 Irish civilians in 1920. The large sports stadium is a revered spot for Irish nationalists who mourn those who died there during the conflict with Britain.

This was the site of the original "Bloody Sunday," a day when British forces opened fire on civilians at a major sporting match between Dublin and Tipperary. It has never been forgotten, but the queen's visit was seen by some as a step toward healing.

"I suppose I never thought this would happen, but I hoped," said Tadhg Meehan, a secretary of the Gaelic Athletic Association that hosted the Queen's visit.

In a brief talk at the Hogan Room inside the stadium, Gaelic Athletic Association President Christy Cooney welcomed the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip.

He mentioned the people who died at the stadium on Bloody Sunday, but he also emphasized the warm relations that now exist between the two countries.

Nickey Brennan, a past president of the association, said the Queen's presence at the massacre site would resonate throughout Ireland.

"To have Her Majesty here today is a very important milestone," he said. "It shows how much we've all moved on."

The Queen's decision to make an appearance in Croke Park was part of her larger plan to use this trip to show understanding of the issues that have often separated these two neighbouring countries.

Royals pass up Guinness

Not every stop was so fraught.

The Queen and Philip began the day with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, one of Ireland's most popular sites, and its famous Gravity Bar, which offers a panoramic view of Dublin.


The Queen and Prince Philip watch as Fergal Murray pours a pint of Guinness in the Dublin's Gravity Bar on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Master brewer Fergal Murray expertly prepared a pint of Guinness for the Queen in the Gravity Bar, but she declined after smiling broadly. Philip gazed at the brew with obvious longing but also walked away without a taste.

Earlier, he had joked with Murray, "Is it made with Liffey water?" referring to the nearby river.

The Guinness tour struck a light note on an otherwise serious visit. The Queen, in an ivory outfit with oversize blue buttons that matched her hat, went directly from the Guinness building for a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also travelled to Dublin on Wednesday for a meeting with Kenny and to attend the state dinner.