- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DUBLIN — Undeterred by real or fake bombs, Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday began the first visit by a British monarch to the Republic of Ireland, a four-day trip to highlight strong Anglo-Irish relations and the success of Northern Ireland peacemaking.

Resplendent in a cloak of emerald green and a dress of St. Patrick’s blue, the 85-year-old queen stepped out from a bombproof, bulletproof Range Rover outside the official residence of Irish President Mary McAleese. Irish Army artillery units fired a 21-gun salute as a military brass band played “God Save the Queen.”

The painstakingly choreographed visit has been designed to highlight today’s exceptionally strong Anglo-Irish relations and the slow blooming of peace in neighboring Northern Ireland following a three-decade conflict that left 3,700 dead.

The queen arrived 100 years after her grandfather George V visited Dublin and an Ireland that was still part of the British Empire.

Beaming smiles by the queen and Mrs. McAleese - a Belfast-born Catholic who has spent 14 years lobbying for Elizabeth II to visit - demonstrated genuine warmth between the two women, who have met several times before.

Mrs. McAleese said Britain and Ireland were “determined to make the future a much, much better place.” The queen didn’t comment ahead of her planned speech Wednesday night at Dublin Castle, the former seat of British rule of Ireland.

Four fixed-wing propeller aircraft from Ireland’s minuscule Air Corps flew overhead in tight formation as a white-gloved, gun-toting honor guard stood to attention.

Inside the president’s residence, Mrs. McAleese introduced the queen and husband Prince Philip to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Outside, the queen introduced the president to British Foreign Minister William Hague. The two leaders then planted a tree as two children rang the residence’s Peace Bell.

A 33-motorcycle police escort led the queen to Mrs. McAleese’s residence in Dublin’s vast Phoenix Park through the unusually empty streets of Dublin - cleared to ensure no anti-British extremist could launch an attack.

Nearby Dublin Zoo was closed as a security precaution and no civilian aircraft were permitted over Dublin for the day.

Irish Republican Army (IRA) dissidents opposed to reconciliation with Britain still tried to undermine the visit with real and hoax bombs, but they caused no significant disruption.

Irish army experts overnight defused one pipe bomb on a Dublin-bound bus that was detected in Maynooth, 15 miles west of the capital. Police said the bomb was properly constructed but not primed to detonate.

A second device abandoned near a light-rail station in west Dublin was deemed a hoax Tuesday morning. Later, police responded to at least two more reports of suspicious packages in working-class districts of north Dublin, but no further bombs were confirmed.

Police said IRA dissidents using a recognized code word warned about the bus bomb, which was left in overhead luggage.

Several small IRA splinter groups concentrated along the Irish border continue to plot gun and bomb attacks in Northern Ireland in hopes of undermining the success of its 1998 peace accord, particularly its stable Catholic-Protestant government.

But Irish and British officials were keen to stress that the queen’s visit to Dublin, Kildare, Tipperary and Cork would proceed as planned - accompanied by the biggest security operation in the Republic of Ireland’s history.

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