After 800 years of tyranny under British rule, the Irish are set to 'welcome' back Her Maj tomorrow 17th May, for a State visit. The first visit of a British monarch in over a hundred years and since Ireland kicked the Brits out. Well that's great. Times are changing and hearts are softening and Ireland wishes to show the world why it is known as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes.
The problem is that there will be nobody to welcome her. She will not experience the street-lined flag waving crowds that her grandfather Georgie boy experienced, back in 1908.
Having been in Dublin City Centre today, I can confirm that the city is like a ghost town. The streets are closed. Everywhere you look there are police and army. The manholes are sealed. All cars have been removed by their owners or towed by the army. It is the most surreal spectacle I have ever witnessed in my life. It looks like a post apocalyptic city. Pubs closed. Restaurants closed. Businesses closed. American tourists are walking around bemused, well more bemused than usual (just kidding, we love you guys). Watching from behind security barriers, I can hear them say ''so what's the deal?'', ''is this for Obama?'', ''where can we eat?'' etc etc
The newspapers talk of 8000 Gardai (Irish police) and 2000 troops drafted in to protect her Highness. I can tell you it seems to be at least double that. A number of dissident republican activists have already been arrested and questioned by officers, including the suspected chief of staff of the Real IRA.
A senior garda officer said: "We are now entering the crucial phase of what is the biggest security operation we have ever mounted, with 8,000 members involved.....contingency plans are in place to ensure that the schedule is not disrupted by potential attackers or troublemakers."
President Mary McAleese hailed the trip as an "extraordinary moment" in the history between the two countries, as unprecedented steps are taken to ensure the historic visit runs smoothly. Even Gerry Adams from Sinn Fein has softened his opinion. A man who has spent his entire life trying to bomb the british out of Northern Ireland and is now resigned to the fact that this could be good for the country and that it could be the beginning of a new era of ''a real and profoundly new and better relationship between the people of Ireland and Britain, one built on equality and mutual respect.'' But only if she apologises for the 800 years of raping and pillaging of the island.
Five-hundred troops last night ringed the perimeter of Fortress Baldonnel as the military aerodrome on the edge of the capital went into lockdown for the arrival of the royal flight.
The soldiers took up position securing the base and will remain there until tomorrow afternoon, while nearby access roads were cordoned off.
Inside Baldonnel, military personnel from an Istar surveillance company went into action on light tactical armoured vehicles, fitted with sophisticated equipment. A Giraffe air defence system is also on standby, with another located at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park, where the queen is due to spend the three nights of her stay here.
Gardai and Army bomb disposal teams dealt with a number of hoax calls over the weekend as well as a pipebomb in Limerick and an incendiary device in Dublin's south inner city.
The cost of the entire operation for Queen Elizabeth and next week's overnight visit by US President Barack Obama will be close to 30m Euro.
It's very easy to take for granted that a British monarch is visiting this country and we are all pretty much feeling okay about it. Even those who are ambivalent about Her Maj at least feel her visit will be good for tourism.
But it wouldn't have been like this 10 years ago. Even then, a lot of people in this country would have pretty much hated the Queen and would have generally felt the Brits were bastards. We were brought up with it. That was kind of the norm and still is in some quarters. As a Republican I despise the British Monarchy but I do respect the British people.
There will be trouble tomorrow. There will be protests and there will be clashes with police no doubt. But to put it in perspective, most Irish people are still reeling from the collapse of the Banking system and more interested in how they are going to pay their mortgage and feed the kids this month than some old lady who is coming to town.
I do hope it goes well because right now we need all the friends we can welcome.
''A man with nothing left becomes fully empowered, and he is the most unassailable weapon.''
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