World

Queen begins historic Ireland visit

Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Dublin for a historic four-day visit meant to highlight reconciliation between Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Irish police find bomb hours before royals arrive

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the residence of the Irish President Mary McAleese in Dublin on Tuesday. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Dublin Tuesday for a historic four-day visit meant to highlight reconciliation between Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The Queen, dressed in emerald green, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, arrived mid-day Tuesday at a military airbase near Dublin, greeted by an honour guard, Irish President Mary McAleese and other dignitaries.

Beaming smiles by the Queen and McAleese — a Belfast-born Catholic who has spent 14 years lobbying for Elizabeth II to visit — demonstrated genuine warmth between the two women, who have met several times before.

At McAleese's official residence, the president said Britain and the Republic of Ireland were "determined to make the future a much, much better place." The Queen didn't comment ahead of her planned speech Wednesday night at Dublin Castle.

More than 8,000 Irish police are in the streets of Dublin amid the tightest security ever seen in the Irish capital. About 1,000 Irish soldiers are also on stand-by.

Authorities had already detonated a pipe bomb found on a bus in Maynooth, about 25 km west of Dublin, just hours before the Queen arrived. Police said the bomb was properly constructed but not primed to detonate.

A second suspicious device that police investigated near a light-rail line in the western district of Inchicore on Tuesday turned out to be a hoax.

No group claimed responsibility for either incident.

Later, police responded to at least two more reports of suspicious packages in working-class districts of north Dublin, but no further bombs were confirmed.

Despite the threat of violence, the royal visit — the first since George V in 1911, when Ireland was still part of the British empire — is seen as a strong indication of improving relations between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. CBC's Susan Ormiston said a cheer went up at the media centre in Dublin when the Queen landed.

Royal security

Some of the precautions being taken for the Queen's visit to Ireland:

  • 8,000 police, or two-thirds of the entire country's police force;
  • 1,000 Irish troops as potential reinforcements;
  • Bombproof, bulletproof Range Rover left airport arrival with police escort of 33 motorcycles;
  • Roads near events closed to vehicles and pedestrians.

Source: The Associated Press

"I think there is quite a bit of excitement about the reconciliation theme of this visit," Ormiston said.

On her first day in Dublin, the Queen, 85, is visiting Trinity College — founded in 1592 by her royal namesake, Queen Elizabeth I — and laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance, a central Dublin memorial that honours two centuries of Ireland's rebel dead.

The painstakingly choreographed visit has been designed to highlight today's exceptionally strong Anglo-Irish relations and the slow blooming of peace in neighbouring Northern Ireland following  three-decade conflict that left 3,700 dead.

Several small IRA splinter groups concentrated along the Irish border continue to plot gun and bomb attacks in Northern Ireland in hopes of undermining the success of its 1998 peace accord, particularly its stable Catholic-Protestant government.

But Irish and British officials were keen to stress that the queen's visit to Dublin, Kildare, Tipperary and Cork would proceed as planned — accompanied by the biggest security operation in the Republic of Ireland's history.   

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said extensive security arrangements render the potential threat from dissidents minimal.

A youth throws a brick at riot police during disturbances related to Queen Elizabeth II's visit, in north Dublin, on Tuesday. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

"They've put in place a comprehensive security operation. You'll recall we've had American presidents here before, a pope," he said. "So obviously while there have been incidents, the Gardai (police) have been able to deal with those."

As the Queen travelled to the rebels' memorial, police scuffled with small groups of anti-British protesters on the edge of the security perimeter. Many waved placards that read "Britain out of Ireland."

At one flashpoint, officers used pepper spray to prevent a few men from breaching security barriers, then police on horseback drove back the crowd. At another trouble spot, protesters tried to block Dublin's major thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, but were pushed to the sidewalk by police. No serious injuries were reported.

With files from CBC News

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