Northern Ireland

Three dilemmas: the Queen, President Obama, and Jedward

Dublin police protests
Image caption The police presence has been increased in Dublin ahead of the Queen's visit.

Three events have preoccupied the Irish authorities over the past few weeks.

The security arrangements for the visit of the Queen, the logistics of President Obama's stop-over, and how to cope if Jedward win the Eurovision song contest.

Such a victory would have brought the event, and its lavish cost to Ireland again next year.

One dilemma, at least, is now out of the way.

Ireland's most popular newspaper has a striking image of a police officer's posterior protruding from a pavement, as the poor man's head dangles into a Dublin sewer.

Every manhole in the city is being checked for explosives.

This is the biggest security operation ever handled by the Irish state. Eight thousand police officers have swamped the city. Major roads have been closed, some since Saturday night.

Baldonnel, the Irish military aerodrome, was secured by hundreds of soldiers two days ahead of the Queen's arrival.

Battle of Clontarf

Gauging opinion in Ireland is relatively easy. People in Dublin, and in Cashel or Kildare for that matter, are rarely stuck for a word or two.

There are the indifferent, the incensed, and the encouraging.

On Sunday evening, around a hundred members of the socialist republican group Eirigi gathered outside the gates of the site of the most controversial engagement on the Queen's itinerary, the Garden of Remembrance.

Parnell Square, at the top of O'Connell Street, is surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and at the moment, hundreds of police.

Eirigi's plan is to set up camp inside the garden, feeling as they do that a visit by a British monarch to a memorial to those who died fighting for independence from Britain, is untimely, inappropriate, and offensive.

"This garden belongs to the people", said one of the protestors who had travelled from Belfast to be here for the week. "Why should we not get in?"

Should any of them manage to scale the perimeter with their sleeping bags, they will undoubtedly be greeted robustly inside.

In the middle of the protest was an elderly gentleman, exhibiting the courage and carefree attitude that often accompanies a man of his age.

He berated those chanting and singing: "When are we going to get our city back lads? You'll be bringing up the Battle of Clontarf next," he scowled.

That battle, waged by Brian Boru, took place one thousand years ago. Younger men in Glasgow Celtic shirts looked on surprised, not quite sure how to react.

"Let the people up to the hospital and stop this oul' nonsense," he insisted.

'Why bother?'

Two weeks ago Mary and her husband visited the garden on a trip from Tipperary.

"We always come here when we visit Dublin, say a prayer and remember the men who died for Ireland".

Mary is a socialist republican, her husband just a republican.

"The woman's welcome here," he said of the Queen, "and I hope there will be no bother, she doesn't deserve it."

Mary agrees: "I hope there won't be any nonsense outside."

Should there be an apology?

"I don't think so, no," said Mary. "What happened is not the Queen's fault, that's all in the past."

There are of course, other considerations. The war monument at Islandbridge, on Dublin's southside, is a serene and beautiful memorial to those Irish men and women who fought in the first and second world wars.

Here too, the Queen will lay a wreath. There, a grandmother, also called Mary, was enjoying a stroll with her daughter and grandson. She described how her own grandfather had fought in World War One, but was not really allowed to be proud of the fact in his lifetime.

In fact, Islandbridge was later treated with sufficient disregard to be turned into a rubbish dump.

Today however, it is restored to its former beauty, rowers glide past on a gentle stretch of the Liffey, and dog walkers admire the cenotaph at the centre of the tranquil garden.

"Why is she bothering to come here at her time of life?" asked Mary. "Sure it's going to cost a fortune, and we have nothing really."

'A little overdue'

Whatever approach the Irish people are taking to the Queen's visit, they are not short of thought on the matter.

Even those who simply do not care, rationalise their indifference.

Many people have described the years of employment provided by England, when Ireland had little work to offer.

Image caption There will be many in Ireland who breathed a sigh of relief that Jedward failed to win Eurovision.

"I was over there for years", said Gerard Larissey, "and the Queen never came out to ask me what was I doing there, so I won't be asking what she's doing here."

The controversial Irish writer and columnist Kevin Myers sees the visit as necessary.

He said: "The simple fact of the matter is that the French and the Germans were exchanging state visits within 15 years of the Second World War.

"Seven hundred thousand French men, women and children were killed during the occupation. I think this is a little overdue in Ireland, just a little bit."

Kevin Myers added that if it goes well, it will simply become the norm.

But with the attendant costs, the Irish people and those in power may hope that such tours remain relatively irregular.

Just as they wished Jedward the best at Eurovision, many were secretly hoping for defeat. Hosting these events is so expensive, that it is perhaps best to allow the economy to recover in peace.

More on this story