MOTORISTS and commuters were bracing themselves for traffic chaos as Ireland’s largest ever security operation swung in to action for the Queen’s visit.
Road closures and parking restrictions are already in place in parts of Dublin as the Irish capital prepares for a lockdown during the historic four-day Royal visit.
Armed British police officers will patrol the streets alongside Gardai and soldiers to protect the 85-year-old monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh as they travel to engagements.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said government and police were conscious of security threats, but maintained the Queen would receive a warm welcome from the vast majority of Irish people.
He described her visit as the start of a new era between the two counties based on respect, friendship and mutual recognition.
“The visit of the Queen is symbolically a healing of the past and facing with courage to the future,” Mr Kenny told Sky news.
Sinn Fein, which opposes the Queen’s visit, said the disruption being caused to Dubliners was unacceptable.
However the republic’s president, Mary McAleese, said the visit would mark an extraordinary moment for the country’s history.
Mrs McAleese insisted it was the right moment for the ground-breaking event and that the visit had been made possible by the success of the peace process.
She said: “A phenomenal sign and signal of the success of the peace process and absolutely the right moment for us to welcome onto Irish soil, Her Majesty the Queen, the Head of State of our immediate next-door neighbours, the people with whom we are forging a new future, a future very, very different from the past, on very different terms from the past and I think that visit will send the message that we are, both jurisdictions, determined to make the future a much, much better place.”
The visit is the first by a British sovereign to the Republic. Her grandfather, King George V, visited the country when it was under British rule 100 years ago.
Protesters – led by socialist republican group Eirigi – were already attempting to set up an Irish Freedom Camp yesterday on Parnell Square close to the Garden of Remembrance, which honours all those who fought for Irish freedom.
The Queen is due to attend a wreath-laying ceremony there.
Her arrival has also sparked controversy as it coincides with the 37th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 34 people.
Victim groups believe the bomb attacks were carried out by loyalist paramilitaries with British state collusion.
Security chiefs said activists will not get near the Queen, with up to 4,000 Garda officers on the streets at any one time in Dublin alone.
Surveillance has been stepped up on known republican dissidents, with several arrests made in the north and south of Ireland.
The Queen will take in the counties of Cork, Kildare and Tipperary as well as touring sites of historical significance in Dublin including Croke Park, Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse.
The unprecedented security operation – which will include land, air and sea patrols – is estimated to cost 30 million euros (£26m).