Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, make a historic visit to Northern Ireland on March 9, 1995. It is their first visit since the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Loyalist ceasefires came into effect the previous year. It is also the first meeting between the Queen and the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly, as well as his Anglican counterpart, the Archbishop of Armagh, Robin Eames.
The BBC‘s Northern Ireland correspondent says the historic trip is intended as a gesture to reassure the province’s unionists, while at the same time trying not to alienate the nationalist population.
The Queen is invited to Armagh by the authorities to present the royal charter renewing Armagh’s status as a city.
In her speech, the Queen addresses all the people of Northern Ireland. She says, “For many difficult years the people of Northern Ireland have shown courage and compassion of an extraordinary kind. Today as they begin to look towards a more peaceful future, Armagh with its two great cathedrals standing so close together presents a powerful symbol of the strength spirit and hopes of people across Northern Ireland.”
Cardinal Cahal Daly says the Queen’s visit is a tribute to the progress made in the peace process since the IRA ceasefire came into effect on August 31, 1994.
Arbishop Robin Eames says, “Look how far we’ve come in a year. It’s a message of symbolism. Be patient, we’ve a long, long way to go but today is one little part of that jigsaw.”
The Queen also visits Belfast, where she meets the city’s Lord Mayor, Hugh Smyth, and shakes hands with a representative of the most extreme unionist party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Peter Robinson, as well as MP Joe Hendron from the mainly nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).
Hendron says, “Things are different now. People must stand up and be counted. You can’t hide in your home. There are two communities here and I think it’s important to go out and shake hands with people like the Queen and from my point of view, she’s very welcome.”
The Queen’s day ends with a visit to Hillsborough Castle.
(From: “1995: Queen marks peace in Belfast,” On This Day 1950-2005, BBC News, http://www.news.bbc.co.uk)