IRELAND NOTEBOOK – SPECTATOR.co.uk
You could not mistake the atmosphere in Dublin this week: the state visit of the Queen and Prince Philip has had the full panoply of a historic occasion. It was obvious that the Irish state was wholeheartedly committed to its success, with the most formal protocols in place. Both David Cameron and William Hague have accompanied the Queen for part of the trip, which is highly unusual. The Queen agreed to visit locations associated with those who rose against the Crown — the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square — and showed a graceful sense of respect. It has been impressive and even moving. Yet it was also sad — at least in Dublin. Because there is a small but extremely violent minority of dissenters, Dublin city was eerily empty of people. Security barriers blocked off all the main thoroughfares. The desolation of the city streets enhanced, in a way, the beauty of the buildings. Strange to think that hardly a generation ago there were Irish politicians who wanted to knock down Georgian Dublin because it was ‘ancien regime’, and fill the spaces with concrete car parks. Thanks to the wonderful Desmond Guinness (Max Mosley’s half-brother), most of Georgian Dublin was saved, and it looked especially glorious as the royal party sped by.