A respectful tribute to our Fenian dead.

A simple bow of the head said so much.

The British head of state was honouring the men and women of 1916 and the volunteers of the Irish Republican Army.

90 years ago this night my grandfather and his two brothers in law were lying in wait in Kilmeena County Mayo.

Clutching weapons they had looted from a burning RIC barracks the year before their objective was to close with the British and kill them.

The following day they got their wish.

After the engagement that day there was dead on both sides.

Afterwards the fine fellows of the RIC Auxiliary Division carried out reprisal atrocities on local homesteads that they believed had harboured the Flying Column.

Despite their savagery the British could not defeat the IRA in Mayo.

Today the British monarch paid tribute to Oglaigh na hEireann.

Tomorrow the Queen will visit Croke Park.

She will, to some extent, have been made aware of the cultural significance of the vast sporting arena to Irish people.

This was the place where Crown forces, once more, disgraced themselves in Ireland.

It would be an appropriate occasion for some acknowledgment, so statement of contrition.

There was a small demonstration in Dublin. However the vast majority of people were welcoming.

Although I defend the right of anyone to demonstrate peacefully in this republic I think they miss sight of the bigger picture.

Today Ireland’s freedom struggle has been honoured by the very state that Republicans fought.

I also acknowledge that today was the anniversary of the Dublin Monaghan bombings. Many people in Ireland believe that the UK government has a case to answer over these outrages in 1974.  It isn’t just conspiracy theorists or extremists who think that, perhaps, British intelligence had a hand in that awful day. The British government are resisting handing over the files to the Irish government.

So there remain some legacy issues from the Dirty War.

Despite that the significance of today’s 15 minute ceremony can’t be overestimated.

In Ireland we still hold our Fenian dead.

However a tradition is something to draw strength from, not to be trapped in.

The British monarch visited this country as a neighbour and as a friend, but not, like her grandfather, as a ruler. Those days are gone.

90 years ago my father’s father faced down a global superpower in the boreens of West Mayo.

He was on the right side of history and I couldn’t be more proud of him as I write these words.

Today on this island all is changed.

This is what history feels like.

This feels like closure.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion