Irish Republican News · May 15, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Paisley visits Boyne battlefield
Paisley visits Boyne battlefield

The planting of a walnut tree on the Battle of the Boyne site in County Meath by 26-County Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and DUP leader Ian Paisley on Friday has highlighted a new dispensation in north-south relations.

In 1690, the forces of the Protestant King WIlliam of Orange defeated an army under the Catholic King James, marking an important turning point in Irish and European history. The Protestant Orange Order -- named for King William -- marks the event every year with hundreds of marches across the Six Counties, including a number controversially held near or through nationalist areas.

Mr Ahern said the symbolic act was being conducted in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect.

“We cannot change what went before, on this ground or across these islands,” he said.

“But history can take many turns. Today in this special place from our history, is another good day.”

Last October when the St Andrews Agreement was concluded in Scotland, Mr Ahern presented Mr Paisley with a bowl carved from a walnut tree which stood at the Boyne site but which had blown down in a storm.

The planting of a sapling from that same walnut tree was the focal point yesterday.

First Minister Mr Paisley said that for Protestants and unionists the Boyne carried with it a powerful significance of “our culture, our history and our pride”.

“It represents liberty, triumph, determination - features which are too often forgotten because of more recent troubles,” he said.

“I welcome that at last we can embrace this battle site as part of our shared history.

“Understanding our past is the only sure way to understand the present.”

Mr Paisley presented the Taoiseach with a musket carried into the battle by a Jacobite officer.

The Dublin government has commited to developing the site’s tourist potential. For Orangemen, the battlefield is a shrine which lies behind enemy lines. It is hoped the new 30 million Euro development of the site will lead to growing numbers of Orange visitors travelling south.

In his address the taoiseach said the battle site’s importance extended far beyond its significance for one tradition alone.

“Our history is complex,” he said.

“And so was the battle fought on this ground. Catholics and Protestants fought on both sides.

“Though the battle is remembered as a defining moment in our own history, it was also part of a greater European conflict.”

The ceremony was attended by DUP Executive ministers Edwin Poots, Arlene Foster, and Ian Paisley jnr, as well as Jeffrey Donaldson and Orange Order leaders.

Orange Order grand secretary Drew Nelson said he hoped the development of the battlefield site and the meeting between Mr Paisley and Mr Ahern would “help to create the atmosphere which will enable the issues that are of concern to Protestants to be addressed”.

Sinn Féin was not invited to attend the Battle of the Boyne battlefield visit yesterday, but a party spokeswoman said “it was good to see it happening”.

* Mr Ahern will address a joint session of the British parliament later today [Tuesday]. The unusual event is intended to underline the recent advances in the peace process.

Mr Ahern, accompanied by British prime minister Tony Blair, will parade into the Royal Gallery through the Sovereign’s Gate - the entrance used annually by Queen Elizabeth.

© 2007 Irish Republican News