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Elizabeth II visits Ireland for first time

DUBLIN -- Sometimes words aren't necessary. That was the case yesterday when Queen Elizabeth II placed a wreath in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance to honor the Irish rebels who lost their lives fighting for freedom -- from Britain.

The queen became the first British monarch to set foot in Dublin for a century. Her four-day visit is designed to show that the bitter enmity of Ireland's war of independence 90 years ago has been replaced by Anglo-Irish friendship, and that peace in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland has become irreversible.

The ceremony under threatening steel-gray skies was simple and direct, its meaning clear. There were no apologies, no acknowledgment of misdeeds, but the presence of the British monarch on ground that is sacred to many Irish was a powerful statement of a desire to start anew.

Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft patrolled the skies and marksmen kept watch on rooftops during the ceremony for any attempt by Ireland's most extreme nationalists to disrupt the event.

A few hundred supporters of Irish Republican Army dissident groups clashed with police on the security perimeter a half-mile away, but the trouble didn't interrupt the queen's carefully choreographed procession through Dublin. Nor did the dissidents' efforts overnight to draw attention by planting a pipe bomb in a bus 15 miles away from Dublin and three hoax devices in the city.

Earlier, as the queen stood in silence alongside Irish President Mary McAleese, a flock of black balloons floated off in the distance, a silent protest by the nationalist Sinn Fein party.

Mary Daly, a historian and director of the College of Arts and Celtic Studies at University College Dublin, said the queen's gesture will be widely understood in Ireland. The queen arrived 100 years after her grandfather George V visited Dublin when Ireland was still part of the British Empire.

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