Dublin service honours Queen Elizabeth’s contribution to reconciliation
The service was an Irish response from the Church of Ireland’s National Cathedral to the contribution of the late Queen Elizabeth in terms of reconciliation and healing relationships between Ireland and the UK. It was attended by the two Archbishops of Dublin, Archbishop Michael Jackson and Archbishop Dermot Farrell, who read the lessons and gave a joint blessing at its conclusion. Also present was Col Stephen Howard, Aide de Camp to the President, the British Ambassador to Ireland, Paul Jones, and the Ambassadors of Monaco, Romania, Palestine and Norway.
The service was also attended by members of the Huguenot Society who gather in St Patrick’s Cathedral annually to commemorate their ancestors who worshiped in the Lady Chapel. A Huguenot prayer was said by Marie Leoutre, chair of the society. Prayers were also offered for the community of Creeslough in County Donegal and all affected by the tragedy that occurred in the village on Friday and there were also prayers for peace.
The service was led by Dean William Morton and Tommie Gorman opened his address by acknowledging the important reconciliation work he did as Dean of St Columb’s Cathedral in Derry during a fragile time in the peace process.
In his address, which was greeted with applause at its conclusion, Mr Gorman spoke of the fascinating thread of connections woven by in Ireland the late British monarch.
On hearing of the death of Queen Elizabeth, he said his first thought was of Angela Kelly, a woman from Liverpool with Irish heritage who was a housekeeper at the British Embassy when the Queen visited Germany. Such was the impression she made that she was encouraged to apply for a job in Windsor which resulted in her becoming personal assistant, adviser and curator to the Queen, he said. She began working in Windsor in 1994, the year of the ceasefire. When Queen Elizabeth made the first State visit of a British monarch to Ireland in 2011 she emerged from the airplane wearing a jade green dress which established the tone and intent of the visit. Part of that was Angela Kelly’s doing, he said.
For months before the visit she had been discretely visiting the venues for the visit. The driver during this planning trip was Brian O’Driscoll who had retired from the staff of the Dublin embassy but was called back to service for the occasion. He was honoured to be asked, Mr O’Gorman said, because for him, like so many, the visit would be cathartic. In July 1976 he was the official driver of the embassy car under which a landmine exploded just 317 yards from the Ambassador’s residence killing the British Ambassador, Christopher Ewart–Briggs who was in the role just two weeks, and 26 year old civil servant, Judith Cooke. At the memorial service the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Garret FitzGerald said that he had no doubt that the perpetrators calculated that Anglo Irish relations would be weakened or permanently damaged but stated that the opposite had been the case. Mr O’Gorman acknowledged the presence of the current British Ambassador and said that a sense of the bond of kinship of which Garret FitzGerald had spoken was evident during the State visit in 2011 – in the visit to the Garden of Remembrance, laying wreaths at Island Bridge, visiting Croke Park – the scene of Bloody Sunday in 1920, in her speech in Dublin Castle.
Mr O’Gorman said that Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness had wanted to come but his party didn’t allow it. First Minister Ian Paisley and his wife travelled south for it. But, he said, something unplanned happened when the Queen visited the Rock of Cashel. Local Sinn Fein Mayor, Michael Brown, shook the hand of the visiting monarch. He said that he had seen throughout his career that in the autumn and winter seasons of life people understood the importance of generosity. Then in March 2017 when Martin McGuinness died, Arlene Foster attended his funeral even though he had given the oration at the funeral of a man linked to the unsuccessful murder attempt on the life of her father. In 2012 Queen Elizabeth visited Northern Ireland which allowed Martin McGuinness to meet her and another phase of peace–making was underway, he stated.
In another example of healing, Mr O’Gorman recalled the 2015 visit of Prince Charles to Classiebawn Estate near Mullaghmore in County Sligo, where his great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten had breakfasted for the last time before he and three others were killed by an IRA bomb in August 1979. Just two people accompanied Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall through the doors of the castle – Tim Knatchbull and his wife Isabella. Tim Knatchbull, then aged 14, was the only survivor of the 1979 explosion.
“In the years since, I have observed Prince Charles carry out his mother’s work in his own way but with the same intentions. The pace was affected by the Covid–19 pandemic and complicated by Brexit but I have no doubt the policy will continue,” he stated. “I’m Irish. I’m at home in this country. There were times, particularly in the Brexit noise, when I was glad to be part of a state run by a government in Dublin rather than Westminster. But there’s not a day that passes without me giving thanks that the taking of life that blighted our land seems to be over. I know the same peace was cherished by Queen Elizabeth and the son who succeeds her as monarch. […] There are so many connections that bind us while we still have our differences.”