Queen praises Northern Ireland people in message to mark centenary

By Caroline Davies

The Queen has said that “continued peace” in Northern Ireland is a “credit to its people”, in a message to the country to mark its centenary.

She also spoke of the “treasured” memories she shared of Northern Ireland with the Duke of Edinburgh, who died, aged 99, last month.

In a statement issued from Windsor Castle, the Queen said: “A century ago, the Government of Ireland Act came into effect, and today marks a significant centenary for both the United Kingdom and Ireland. This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity.

“In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps, more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset. The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division. But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.

“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment. During my many visits to Northern Ireland, I have seen these qualities in abundance, and look forward to seeing them again on future occasions.

“I also wish to recognise the important contribution made by our friends and closest neighbours towards the success of Northern Ireland. I look back with fondness on the visit Prince Philip and I paid to Ireland, 10 years ago this month. I treasure my many memories, and the spirit of goodwill I saw at first hand.

“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our guiding thread in coming years.

“I send my warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland. Elizabeth R.”

Boris Johnson said the UK government would continue to showcase “all the brilliant things” Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK.

The prime minister said on Twitter: “This is a very significant national anniversary, marking the 100th year since the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and the formation of the United Kingdom as we know it today.

“Throughout 2021, in its centenary year, the Government will continue to showcase all the brilliant things Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK and the world, from its world-class fintech industry and research capabilities, to its inspiring young people, and its vibrant culture of arts and sport.

“It is also important that we pause to reflect on the complex history of the last 100 years. People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the globe, will approach this anniversary in different ways, with differing perspectives.

“While this is a moment of shared reflection, it is also an important opportunity to come together to celebrate Northern Ireland and build towards a better and even brighter future for all its people.”

There are no large-scale celebrations or ceremonies planned for the anniversary; the pandemic has caused huge disruption to plans by unionist parties to mark the centenary.

The government’s plans to mark the centenary of the state’s foundation include a major business showcase in London, a £1m Shared History Fund, a futuristic programme for young people, tree-planting projects, academic and historic events and an international church service for all denominations.

Northern Ireland was created on 3 May 1921 when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate entities.

The effect of the Government of Ireland Act split the 32 counties of Ireland into two, leaving Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone to form Northern Ireland.