DUBLIN — Queen Elizabeth II will visit Dublin's famed Guinness brewery and the scene of the original Bloody Sunday massacre during a long-awaited May visit to Ireland designed to demonstrate modern-day reconciliation between Britain and its rebellious former possession.
Buckingham Palace and Irish President Mary McAleese jointly unveiled plans for the May 17-20 visit following more than a decade of speculation about its timing. It will be the first trip by a British monarch since 1911, a decade before Ireland won independence from Britain following a cutthroat guerrilla war.
The unexpectedly long trip will focus on Dublin but span the Republic of Ireland, including Cork, known as the "rebel county" because of its role as the epicenter of rebellion against British rule 90 years ago.
The visit is expected to come just days before a one-day trip to Ireland by United States President Barack Obama. Ireland's national police force has canceled all vacation leave in the second half of May to cope with the back-to-back security demands.
The queen's most potently symbolic event appears certain to be her visit to Croke Park, an 82,000-seat Dublin stadium and hallowed ground for Irish nationalism. It was on that spot on Nov. 21, 1920, that the most infamous day of Ireland's war of independence – Bloody Sunday – reached its nightmare climax.
An Irish Republican Army assassination squad commanded by Michael Collins had killed 14 British agents, mostly in their Dublin residences, that morning. Britain responded by sending troops and police into Croke Park, where a Gaelic football match raising funds for IRA prisoners was taking place. The British forces shot and killed 14 people, including two boys and a member of the visiting Tipperary team.
For decades afterward, the Gaelic Athletic Association barred the playing of any sports associated with England on its grounds and also forbid members of the Northern Ireland security forces, both soldiers and police, to join its clubs.
A second British Army mass killing – of 13 Catholic demonstrators in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry in 1972 – also become known as Bloody Sunday.
But the GAA over the past decade has moved in response to Northern Ireland's peace process. In 2007 it began allowing Ireland's soccer and rugby squads to play at Croke Park. Since 2001 it has permitted Northern Ireland troops and police to play their games, Gaelic football and hurling.
And GAA leaders issued a joint statement Thursday welcoming the queen to the stadium. They noted how far peacemaking had come in Northern Ireland, where paramilitary cease-fires took hold in the mid-1990s followed by the Good Friday peace accord in 1998.
"The GAA is pleased to have been asked to receive Queen Elizabeth," they said, saying that her planned visit "reflects and acknowledges the special place of the GAA in the life and history of the nation."
"We hope also that it will encourage a greater interest and participation in our games by our fellow Irishmen and women of the unionist tradition," they said, referring to the British Protestant majority in Northern Ireland, which traditionally has shunned Gaelic sports.
No British monarch has visited the south of Ireland since the queen's grandfather, George V, spent six days in Dublin in July 1911. The rise of the modern IRA campaign in 1970 ensured no return for decades more. The only British royal who kept a vacation home in the Republic of Ireland, Lord Mountbatten, was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.
But IRA cease-fires in 1994 and 1997, followed by the outlawed group's formal disarmament and renunciation of violence in 2005, have transformed the security situation. The queen's eldest son, Prince Charles, and her husband, Prince Philip, have both made two official visits to Dublin since 1995.
The partial itinerary published Thursday includes visits to Dublin Castle, once the seat of British rule in Ireland and today a government conference center, nearby Trinity College, and the Guinness Storehouse, one of Dublin's most popular tourist attractions.
Events outside Dublin include visits to Ireland's national horse-breeding center in County Kildare and to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, a hilltop medieval monument of exceptional beauty.
The queen is being accompanied by Prince Philip, also known as the duke of Edinburgh.
All parties in Ireland welcomed news of the visit except the nationalist Sinn Fein, which holds 14 seats in Ireland's 166-member parliament.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said many citizens would be offended by the queen's appearance – particularly because it coincides with the 37th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in the republic's history.
On May 17, 1974, three no-warning car bombs detonated in Dublin amid crowds of evening commuters, while a fourth exploded outside a pub in the border town of Monaghan.
Thirty-three people died in an attack officially claimed by Protestant outlaws in Belfast. But nobody was ever convicted for the slaughter, and the sophistication of the quadruple bombing fueled Irish allegations that British agents were actually responsible. Britain fed those suspicions by refusing to hand over its intelligence files on the atrocity to an Irish fact-finding commission.
Adams called the queen's planned May 17 arrival "particularly insensitive."
Croke Park, http://www.crokepark.ie/about
GAA history of Bloody Sunday, http://bit.ly/fXJIDu