Power of symbolic action

I couldn’t quite tell you why – but the Queen’s visit to Ireland is very moving. As always, she says little – but that seems more than enough to do what is necessary. Whover ‘they’ are, ‘they’ have been very brave in their planning. Not content just to welcome her to Ireland, they have set about bringing her to the most sensitive and evocative places – as if to lay ghosts, heal memories, etc.

The scale of the bad history which is being laid to rest is quite extraordinary – everything from the Easter Rising and the cold-shouldering of Irish men and women who fought in the First World War to the more recent suffering of the Troubles. One thinks of the burning of the British Embassy in Merrion Square after the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972 – I was a student in Dublin and watched it happen – and the murder of the British Ambassador, Christopher Ewart-Biggs – and the killing of Lord Mountbatten. The weight of history is enormous. This visit will have done much to enable both parts of Ireland to move on.


  1. I too, was deeply moved, which also, in a strange way, caught me unawares. From the moment when the Queen addressed the gathering at dinner in Gaelic, everything that had led to up to that – the centuries of enmity, misunderstanding, alienation – was healed, and a new thing was done. Deo gratias.

    1. Isn’t it interesting? LIke the best of liturgy which has the capacity to point in a number of directions at the same time … these symbolic/ritual actions have the power to speak to people from different underlying traditions. For you, the use of a phrase in Irish – for Irene the sound of the Irish Army Band playing God Save the Queen

  2. I couldn’t quite tell you why either – but I so agree with you. Slightly to my own amazement I wept briefly at the sight and sound of an Irish military band playing “God save the Queen” outside Aras. Partly it was visual – a small 85-year-old woman standing between two large saluting Army officers in all the gear – but it was also the utter impossibility of it, for so long.

    And didn’t College look well?

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