Queen Elizabeth Calls for End to Violence, Hails N. Ireland Man
Queen Elizabeth II made a Christmas Day appeal for an end to violence and intolerance, hailing the example set by a Northern Ireland man who forgave the terrorist killers of his 20-year-old daughter.
The queen said Gordon Wilson, who was trapped under the rubble of a bomb-devastated building in Enniskillen with his dying daughter, Marie, symbolized the hope for tolerance and reconciliation in strife-torn Northern Ireland.
“His strength, and that of his wife, and the courage of their daughter, came from their Christian conviction,” she said in her message. “All of us will echo their prayer that, out of the personal tragedies of Enniskillen may come a reconciliation between the communities.”
Marie, a student nurse, was one of 11 Protestants killed in the bombing at a Nov. 8 ceremony honoring Britain’s war dead. The overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Irish Republican Army, fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland and unite the province with Ireland, claimed responsibility.
Break With Tradition
The queen’s message broke tradition, as it usually focuses on the topics of home and family instead of politics.
The pretaped address sparked controversy after its theme was leaked last weekend for the first time in the 35 years that she has been broadcasting to Britain and its Commonwealth of former colonies.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reassigned palace reporter Michael Cole after he confided the queen’s comments to fellow journalists over lunch, thinking he was talking off the record. Cole had seen a press preview of the speech.
Six newspapers printed stories last weekend saying the queen had for the first time condemned the IRA in a Christmas speech. In fact, she never mentioned the IRA by name in talking about the “horrifying explosion” in Enniskillen.
Sitting in her Buckingham Palace study, the 61-year-old monarch said: “It is only too easy for passionate loyalty to one’s own country, race or religion, or even to one’s favorite football club, to be corroded into intolerance, bigotry and ultimately into violence.”
She said people are right to hold their beliefs strongly provided they accept that “while we each have a right to our own convictions, others have a right to theirs, too.”