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For some Irish people, Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy is complicated

Queen Elizabeth II lays a wreath at Dublin Memorial Garden on May 17, 2011, in Ireland. Her visit was the first by a monarch since 1911. (Pool/Getty Images)

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has drawn condolences from across the globe. Among those who paid tribute were Irish politicians, who praised the queen’s efforts to repair strained ties between Ireland and Britain.

But for many Irish, the occasion of the queen’s death — and her legacy — surfaced emotions that were much more mixed. Some of the reactions — including a group of soccer fans singing “Lizzy’s in a box!” in Dublin on Friday — were denounced as callous. But others have spoken to a long, painful history of violent conflict and colonial rule.

Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned over the U.K. for 70 years, dies at 96

Ireland gained its independence from Britain in 1922, ending eight centuries of English political and military intervention for most of the island. Northern Ireland, though, remained part of the United Kingdom — and unresolved tensions between nationalists who wanted to be part of the republic and unionists loyal to the Crown led to decades of violence known as the Troubles between the late 1960s and late 1990s.

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Queen Elizabeth II
Laid to rest
Queen Elizabeth II has been buried in her final resting place next to Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, capping an elaborate state funeral, which was invested with all the pomp, circumstance and showmanship that the monarchy, military and state could put on display for a global broadcast audience of millions. Here are some of the most memorable moments in photos and videos.
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Anne Marie Quilligan, a social care worker from Ireland’s Limerick region, said on Thursday that the mixed reactions from Irish and other people whose nations suffered under the British Empire were “collective trauma.”

“Unresolved trauma can become generational,” she wrote on Twitter. “Colonisation is a trauma.”

Hannah Wanebo, an Irish American lawyer based in Dallas, wrote on Twitter that her Irish grandmother hated England so much that she would only travel home on flights that did not touch down on English soil.

“I’m shocked by how many people think the Potato Famine was due to crop failure and don’t know the English EXPORTED food from Ireland to England during that time — enough food to feed all the Irish who died,” Wanebo wrote, referring to the 19th-century famine in Ireland that resulted in the deaths of as many as a million Irish people and the emigration of another 2 million to 3 million escaping starvation.

Elizabeth wasn’t queen during the Irish famine. But she reigned during the Troubles in Northern Ireland — and when the two sides made peace with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

As Elizabeth gives way to Charles, realms consider severing ties

In 2011, she made history as the first monarch to travel to Ireland since its independence. Elizabeth traveled the country and addressed the two nations’ difficult, shared past head-on.

“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past, I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy,” she said in a speech at Dublin Castle. “With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

In 2012, the queen shook hands with Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the Irish Republican Army who had become deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The IRA, a paramilitary group that used violent tactics in its pursuit of Irish reunification, had killed the queen’s cousin in 1979.

Michelle O’Neill, head of the nationalist Sinn Fein party that was previously associated with the IRA, shared her sympathies with the royal family Thursday.

“Throughout the peace process she led by example in building relationships with those of us who are Irish, and who share a different political allegiance and aspirations to herself and her Government,” O’Neill said in a statement.

In a statement after her death, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, head of the Republic of Ireland’s government, said that state visit “marked a crucial step in the normalisation of relations with our nearest neighbour.” Mary Lou McDonald, president of Sinn Fein, called the queen “a powerful advocate and ally of those who believe in peace and reconciliation.”

See how the world is mourning Queen Elizabeth II, in photos and videos

Others shared excerpts of a column last year by Patrick Freyne in the Irish Times, on the struggle between Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and the rest of the royal family. Freyne argued that the monarchy was an archaic institution with no future.

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories,” Freyne wrote in March 2021. “More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Irish Times correspondent Naomi O’Leary pointed out that some videos and claims circulating on social media following the queen’s death were misinformation. The Associated Press debunked one claim that a video showing an Irish dance group performing a routine to the Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust” outside Buckingham Palace occurred on Thursday after the queen’s death. In fact, the group posted the video on social media months before, in January.

With some exceptions, O’Leary said, the Irish public largely sympathizes with the British people over the loss of their queen.

“The actual response in Ireland is yes, some indifference because it’s not important to everybody,” she tweeted of the queen’s death. “But public expressions are overwhelmingly empathetic to our neighbours, friends and in many cases family members.”

Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II

The final resting place: Queen Elizabeth II has been buried in her final resting place next to Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, capping an elaborate state funeral, which was invested with all the pomp, circumstance and showmanship that the monarchy, military and state could put on display for a global broadcast audience of millions.

The state funeral: The funeral was full of pageantry and pathos, including a new national anthem, funeral ensembles with affectionate touches in honor of the queen, a personal note from King Charles III, appearances by the young heirs, Prince George and Princess Charlotte and the royal corgis. Here are some of the most memorable moments in photos and videos.

A new monarch: Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Charles, became King Charles III the moment his mother died. He may bring a markedly different personal vision of religion and spirituality to the role. Here’s what to know about him.

We’re following changes in the British monarchy post-Elizabeth. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for the latest updates.

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