Plaque honouring children who opposed Queen Victoria visit to be unveiled in Dublin

Inaugural event remembering Maud Gonne-led protest in 1900 to take place in Drumcondra on Saturday

A statue of Queen Victoria outside Windsor Castle flanked by Tricolour and union flags for President Michael D Higgins’ state visit in April 2014. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

In 1900, a year before she died, Queen Victoria visited Dublin, provoking a ferocious debate within Ireland.

Newsreel footage at the time shows that thousands of people turned up to meet the ailing British monarch, who had been on the throne for 53 years.

“Her most gracious majesty the Queen landed at Kingstown yesterday morning and drove in State to Dublin amid scenes of wonderful enthusiasm and in the presence of a vast multitude of her Irish subjects,” The Irish Times, an avowedly unionist newspaper at the time, breathlessly reported.

Not everybody was happy with the reception given to Queen Victoria. Her visit galvanised nationalist Ireland in opposition – especially Maud Gonne, the future muse of the poet WB Yeats and husband to executed Easter Rising leader Major John MacBride.

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She and other women in Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the forerunner of Cumann na mBan, organised the Patriotic Children’s Treat for children of a nationalist persuasion. It took place in Clonturk Park, Drumcondra on July 1st, 1900.

According to contemporary reports, 35,000 children attended the event. A jubilant Gonne compared it to the 5,000 children who turned up to meet Queen Victoria – “and most of them belonged to the orphanages and workhouses,” she claimed.

Now, more than 100 years after this event took place, Dublin City Council will host a Picnic in the Park event in conjunction with the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the Patriotic Children’s Treat. The Picnic in the Park event is taking place from 1-3pm with the plaque unveiling at 2pm in Clonturk Park, Drumcondra.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times