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Queen Elizabeth II ready for historic Irish trip

Queen Elizabeth II ready for historic Irish trip

Much of central Dublin has been closed off by police to prepare for the landmark visit of Queen Elizabeth II, who is set to become the first British monarch to set foot in the Republic of Ireland despite rising security concerns.
The queen and her husband Prince Philip will begin their four-day visit Tuesday, one day after IRA dissident groups issued a coded warning indicating that a bomb had been planted in central London, forcing British police on high alert.
The arrival of the British queen has sparked the biggest security operation in the history of the Irish state, with more than 8,500 Irish police assigned to protect her along with British security teams.
The long-awaited visit is seen as a celebration of improving bonds between Britain and Ireland, former adversaries that have tried to form a more equal relationship after decades of mistrust and mutual suspicion.
"It's very much a sign of the maturity of the relationship, not just the conclusion of the troubles in Northern Ireland," said Noel Cox, a law professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales. "But clearly security is a big concern. The dissident groups are still there."
Irish President Mary McAleese, who invited the queen, said Monday that her arrival "signals the success of the peace process" that has tamped down decades of violence in northern Ireland.
"I think it is an extraordinary moment in Irish history," said McAleese, who will host many of the events set up for the queen and her husband.
The queen arrives a full century after her grandfather George VI visited an Ireland that was still part of the British Empire. Relations between Ireland and its former colonial master have been tense most of that time.
The two countries spent decades in frosty opposition following Ireland's guerrilla war of independence from Britain and the creation in 1922 of the Irish Free State.
Ireland stayed neutral in World War II and offered condolences to Germany over Adolf Hitler's death; broke all symbolic ties with Britain by declaring itself a republic in 1949; and offered sympathy and safe haven when the modern Irish Republican Army in 1970 began shooting and bombing in the British territory of Northern Ireland.
But after Britain and Ireland joined the European Union in 1973, and as the bloodshed in Northern Ireland spilled over into the Catholic south, the governments in London and Dublin gradually found common cause.
Their cooperation provided the essential bedrock for the 1998 Good Friday peace accord. IRA disarmament and a stable Catholic-Protestant government in Belfast eventually followed.
The process has paid some dividends. Today's Ireland is home to 4.5 million residents who watch British television, read British newspapers and magazines, and shop in the British chain stores that dominate the commercial hearts of every Irish city.
Many follow English and Scottish soccer with passion, traveling in their tens of thousands each weekend by plane and ferry. The English, in turn, have made the Emerald Isle a favored tourist destination.
Ireland's fearful struggle to prevent national bankruptcy _ the Irish have spent three years raising taxes and cutting spending, and six months ago received a potential (EURO)67.5 billion ($95 billion) credit line from international lenders _ has found its greatest champion in Britain.
The government of Prime Minister David Cameron offered a particularly low-interest loan, declared that Ireland's revival was a strategic British interest, and has pressed other EU members to cut the Irish more slack for managing their staggering debts.
These cultural and economic ties have created what is expected to be a generally warm atmosphere for the queen despite the threat of violence from small groups of dissidents.
But the dissident bomb warning Monday heightened tensions in the hours before the queen's arrival and ratcheted up safety concerns in Dublin, where some troops and even ground-to-air missiles were being deployed.
The monarch's presence is resented by some in Ireland who bristle at the legacy of British rule, with some predicting violent street clashes and others fearing a terrorist attack. A few protest signs could be seen Monday evening in the Irish capital.
The dissident group's bomb warning was the first serious threat to Britain since 2001, the last time republican dissidents made a successful attack in England, exploding a car bomb near a shopping center in west London, wounding 11 people.
It follows fears that escalating violence in Northern Ireland would spread to Britain, and comes after the government raised the threat level related specifically to Irish terrorism.
In Ireland, the national police force has canceled all leave and drafted in officers from rural areas. They also have borrowed two mobile water cannons from Northern Ireland's police.
The queen's four-day trip to Dublin, Killdeer, Tipperary and Cork comes as a Catholic-Protestant government in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland has just been re-elected, marking another peace milestone.
One of the queen's first actions Tuesday will be to lay a wreath at a Dublin memorial honoring Ireland's rebel dead, a surprisingly direct gesture toward Britain's opponents in the bloody 1919-21 guerrilla war of independence.
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David Stringer and Raphael G. Satter contributed from London.


Updated : 2021-07-31 13:01 GMT+08:00