For some Irish, Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy is complicated

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has drawn condolences from around the world. Among those paying tribute were Irish politicians, who praised the Queen’s efforts to mend the strained ties between Ireland and Britain.

But for many Irish people, the occasion of the Queen’s death – and her legacy – brought much more mixed emotions. Some of the reactions – including a bunch of football fans singing “Lizzy’s in a box!” in Dublin on Friday – were denounced as insensitive. But others spoke of a long and painful history of violent conflict and colonial rule.

Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled the UK for 70 years, dies aged 96

Ireland gained independence from Britain in 1922, ending eight centuries of English political and military intervention in most of the island. Northern Ireland, however, chose to stay in the UK – and unresolved tensions between nationalists who wanted to be part of the republic and unionists loyal to the Crown led to decades of violence known as of Troubles between the late 1960s and the late 1990s.

Anne Marie Quilligan, social worker from the Irish region of Limerick, said Thursday that the mixed reactions of the Irish and other people whose nations suffered under the British Empire was a “collective trauma”.

“Unresolved trauma can become generational,” she wrote on Twitter. “Colonization is a trauma.”

Hannah Wanebo, an Irish American lawyer based in Dallas, wrote on Twitter that her Irish grandmother hated England so much that she would only return home on flights that did not land on English soil.

“I’m shocked at how many people think the potato famine was due to a bad harvest and don’t know about English food EXPORTED from Ireland to England during this time – enough food to feed all the Irish who died”, Wanebo wrotereferring to the 19th century famine in Ireland which resulted in the death of a million Irish people and the emigration of another 2–3 million fleeing the famine.

Elizabeth was not queen during the Irish famine. But she reigned supreme during the Troubles in Northern Ireland – and when the two sides made peace with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In 2011, she made history as the first monarch to visit Ireland since independence. Elizabeth traveled the country and confronted both nations’ difficult and shared past head-on.

“To all who have suffered the consequences of our troubled past, I send my heartfelt thoughts and deepest sympathy,” she said in a speech at Dublin Castle. “Looking back historically, we can all see things we wish we had done differently or not at all.”

In 2012, the Queen shook hands with Martin McGuinness, a former commander in the Irish Republican Army who became Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The IRA, a paramilitary group which used violent tactics in its pursuit of Irish reunification, had killed the Queen’s cousin in 1979.

Michelle O’Neill, leader of the nationalist Sinn Fein party who was previously associated with the IRA, shared her sympathies with the royal family on Thursday.

“Throughout the peace process, she has led by example in building relationships with those of us who are Irish and who share political allegiance and aspirations different from herself and her government,” said O’Neill said in a statement.

In a statement after his death, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Head of Government of the Republic of Ireland, said the state visit “marked a crucial step in the normalization of relations with our closest neighbour”. Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald called the Queen a “powerful advocate and ally of those who believe in peace and reconciliation”.

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Others share excerpts from a column last year by Patrick Freyne in the Irish Times, about the fight between Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and the rest of the royal family. Freyne argued that the monarchy was an archaic institution with no future.

“Having a monarchy next door is a lot like having a neighbor who really loves clowns and has plastered his house with murals of clowns, displays clown dolls in every window and has an insatiable desire to hear and to discuss clown-related news,” Freyne wrote in March 2021. “Specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbor who really loves clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown .”

Irish Times correspondent Naomi O’Leary has pointed to some videos and claims circulating on social media after the Queen’s death as misinformation. The Associated Press has debunked a claim that a video showing an Irish dance group performing a routine to the Queen’s song ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ outside Buckingham Palace occurred after the Queen’s death on Thursday . In fact, the band had posted the video on social media months before, in January.

With few exceptions, O’Leary said, the Irish public largely sympathizes with the British people over the loss of their queen.

“The real answer in Ireland is yes, some indifference because it’s not important to everyone,” she said. tweeted of the queen’s death. “But public expressions are overwhelmingly empathetic to our neighbors, friends and, in many cases, family members.”

Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

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