The Other I

May 19, 2011

Why not sooner?

Filed under: The English — theotheri @ 8:17 pm

In a comment following yesterday’s post, Chris asked why the Queen’s visit to Ireland couldn’t have taken place ten years ago.

The technical answer is that the Queen is not a political figure but a representative of the people.  In that sense, she does not make policy or broker deals, but confirms them.  In the visit to Ireland, she was speaking for the people of England to say that the hostilities of the last century no longer are the way Britain related to the Irish people.

So why couldn’t she have said it ten years ago?  Because the English and the Irish were still killing each other.  Each side inflicted massive and deadly wounds both in Northern Ireland, in England, and on the high seas.  Because peace talks were still starting and stalling and starting again.   Politicians were visiting each other in frustrating and agonizing negotiations that have taken decades to achieve.

Even now, the people in Ireland were not allowed to crowd into the streets to greet the Queen for fear that someone would explode a bomb.  Sinn Fein representatives Martin McGinnis and Gerry Adams refused to attend any ceremonies on the grounds that it is still “too early.”

All of this might be easier to understand if one reflects on how very personal so many of the hostilities were, how brutally they ripped apart families on both sides.  It takes time to heal wounds like this.  How often when two people have a fight and one person says they are sorry does the other one continue to attack, elaborating the accusations and pain?  It takes time and a greatness of spirit to say “I’m sorry.”  And often it takes even greater generosity and selflessness to accept an apology from someone who has caused real harm.

I think had the Queen gone to Ireland ten years ago, there would have been an uproar.  Neither side was really ready yet for peace.  Too many on both sides wanted revenge, not peace.

Now the majority of people want peace and cooperation.

And that’s why the Queen could go to Ireland now.  And not ten years ago.



  1. What is it about us that takes us so long to be ready for peace?


    Comment by Noreen — May 19, 2011 @ 11:08 pm | Reply

    • Yes, what is it? I think this really is a truly significant question that is worth some serious examination. If we understood more fully why we love our anger so much, why we are often even willing to die rather than give it up, perhaps we could begin to deal with it more constructively. I wouldn’t be surprised if the question is not a cousin to Chris’ reference to the evolutionary sources of tribalism. What do you think? Long-term, enduring anger so often seems to me to be tied up with honour and identity. It’s quite different from the short-term bouts of adrenalin which enable us to run from the lion or duck the incoming rock or jump out of the burning building.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 20, 2011 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

      • Oooh, this is an interesting exchange! Thanks for posting a followup.


        Comment by Chris — May 25, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

      • Agree. We should all write posts on this….what’s the title?


        Comment by Noreen — May 26, 2011 @ 1:24 am

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