Conditions 'best ever' for Queen's visit: McAleese

Conditions for an historic visit by the Queen to Ireland are about as good as they have ever been, President Mary McAleese said today.

A first visit by the Queen could come sooner than people think because of the political breakthrough in the North, she said.

The strides away from conflict and restoration of a power-sharing devolved government at Stormont were “without a shadow of a doubt” bringing forward the day when a visit could take place.

Speaking during one of her increasingly frequent visits to the North, Prof McAleese said: “One of the things we would all have in mind would be to ensure the circumstances are absolutely right.

“They are probably now getting to the point where they are as close to right as they have ever been.

“One of the things we take great pride and great encouragement from is what is happening here in Northern Ireland – that’s giving us great comfort.

The Belfast-born president spoke of a possible royal visit to Dublin after being given a warm welcome when she made a ground-breaking first address to a unionist-controlled council in the North.

Mrs McAleese told the councillors and invited guests that in the nine years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement it often seemed that this time would never arrive.

But she said: “We are a very blessed generation to live through times of unprecedented political goodwill on this island.”

She said the relationship of good neighbourliness and practical partnership was being nurtured on both sides of the border, with the Republic enjoying the best-ever rapport, not only with the British government but "at every level and in every sphere between Ireland and Britain".

The President said: “Perseverance, courage and leadership have helped this generation to straighten out the skewed relationships that history bequeathed us.”

Prof McAleese, who visited both Catholic and Protestant schools during her visit to Lisburn, said there was a wider significance to the historic events in the North.

She said: “They send a powerful message of hope to other societies which are still mired in conflict and wondering if there is ever going to be any way out.

“We can at least tell them that patience and persistence do pay off, that courage and a generous spirit of compromise bring out the best in people, that old enemies can indeed become good neighbours.”

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