'Queen helped cement culture of reconciliation between UK and Ireland', says Mary McAleese

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Mary McAleese, the former Irish President, hosted the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh during their historic trip to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 Credit: PA image

Former Irish President Mary McAleese has paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II's contribution to cementing a culture of reconciliation between the UK and Ireland.

Buckingham Palace announced the death of the 96-year-old monarch, who died “peacefully” on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were hosted by Mrs McAleese during their historic trip to the Republic of Ireland in 2011.

It was the first visit by a British monarch in 100 years which was widely acknowledged as a landmark moment in the development of Anglo-Irish relations in the peace process era.

Famously, the Queen spoke a few words in Irish as she addressed a state banquet in Dublin Castle and also bowed her head as she laid a wreath in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance for those who died fighting for Irish freedom.

Mrs McAleese, who along with her husband Martin welcomed the Royal couple to Ireland, paid tribute to the Queen's legacy.

"Through His Excellency, the British Ambassador to Ireland, Paul Johnston, I have today offered my condolences on the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, to her family and the people of the United Kingdom to whom she gave such faithful and dignified service for many decades," said Mrs McAleese.

"The people of Ireland will fondly remember her historic visit in 2011 when her presence and her words did so much to cement a culture of reconciliation and partnership between these islands.

"The warm welcome she received underlined the great desire of the Irish people, a desire strongly reciprocated by Her Majesty, The Queen, for good neighbourly relationships to flourish between us.

"Let us hope that legacy, in which she invested so much, will be honoured and realised."

Mrs McAleese was president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011.