For some this week’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations will be little more than two extra days holiday from work. However as we have witnessed in many of our streets and communities across Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom many in the nation have been gripped by a feeling of gratitude and admiration for the service given by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.
At the age of eighty-six the Queen has become only the second Monarch to reach this milestone, Queen Victoria being the first. She is undoubtedly the most traveled British Monarch in history and continues a grueling work schedule across the UK and beyond that would challenge someone much younger. In an age of media intrusion and 24hour news and Internet access she has remained dignified throughout her reign.
For me the Queen is a wonderful symbol of our great nation. She is not Scottish, English, Irish or Welsh but instead represents the whole of Britain and the Commonwealth Nations. While other countries who follow republican forms of government often elect individuals who divide rather than unite, we have been lucky to have Queen Elizabeth head our nation for sixty years. This has offered us great stability and reassurance from the post war period through six decades of change to modern day, multi-cultural Britain. During her time as Monarch she has seen 13 prime ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron.
Last years visit to the Republic of Ireland and the wonderful welcome she received also reminds us of how far we have come and gives us hope of a great visit to Belfast and Enniskillen later this month. Details of the trip have been released publically for the first time in many years, allowing more people to participate in the visit and show their support and admiration.
I believe the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations have only strengthened the United Kingdom and it’s constituent parts. We have come together within our families, communities and the country as a whole and offered celebration and thanks to the queen for her duty and service over sixty years. We have done this in many different ways reflecting the diverse cultural and religious makeup of the country.
I believe the United Kingdom will emerge from this year of celebration strengthened and reinvigorated. The celebrations across the country have proven the old adage that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, a message I believe nationalism such as that offered by the Scottish independence movement, will find impossible to break.