The Queen of Aran? I don't think so....

Departing Ambassador recommends ""cycling around Aran"


THE OUTGOING British ambassador to Ireland has said he is "very hopeful" that Queen Elizabeth will visit the State "before too long". Asked if the time was right for such a visit, David Reddaway said: "I hope it'll happen soon."

He believes relations between the two countries have been "transformed" and are "now in a really good phase which is irreversible".

Asked if he thought relations between Ireland and Britain were now "completely normal", he was said he was "cautious about the word normal . . . because we have such a unique history and too many historical ties, good and bad, to be able to speak of normality very easily".

However, he added, "we are no longer defined by what divides us" and are instead "defined by the advantages of working together and what we have in common".

Mr Reddaway recalled the advice of a predecessor, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, who in 1976 had sent his "first impressions" dispatch from Ireland to the Foreign Office in London: "We should be careful not to confuse friendliness with friendship" and about three weeks after he wrote that "he was blown up by the IRA".

While "there are still those who harbour feelings that perhaps they'll never get rid of", he had "never been met with anything but friendliness".

Mr Reddaway, who will leave his post at the end of the month, was speaking in Kilkenny yesterday during his final public engagements in Ireland. At a ceremony in the restored early 17th- century gardens of Rothe House, and accompanied by his son Milo (13), he planted a yew tree to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Kilkenny being granted city status by royal charter in 1609.

Speaking to The Irish Times , he described his three years in Ireland as "an amazing experience" which he and his family had loved. He had enjoyed the Irish sense of humour although he noted that "the jokes are frequently at the expense of the British - but that's fine".

He would leave with "a lot of memories of fun with people; we've had some marvellous craic and laughs here."

Although he was unable to travel around the country as much as he wished, his favourite experiences included "that very special day at Croke Park which went beyond the bitterness of history - without forgetting it - but realising that we had moved forward"; "seeing the solstice at Newgrange - and the sun behaved"; and "cycling around the Aran Islands which was great".

His "outstanding memory" though and "favourite single place" was the "fantastic Skellig Michael", despite "the whole palaver of getting there".

His only gripe was that "the weather could have been nicer" and often forced the embassy to cancel events in the garden and "revert to plan B".

That won't be a problem in his next posting where, he said, "the sun will shine".

Mr Reddaway is moving to Ankara where he takes up the position of British ambassador to Turkey next month.

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