Oh dear, here we go again. First it was Irish President Mary McAleese, this morning it was the Lord Mayor of Dublin telling us that he looked forward to the visit of the queen to Ireland and that the Irish people had an affection for the British monarchy and would welcome her warmly. Let’s see if we can disentangle a few points.
The proposed visit will be an official state visit. That means QE2 would come as the embodiment of Britain. Which means? Well, that’s the issue. The phrase most often used is that the visit would mark ‘the normalization of relations between Britain and Ireland’.
Well now. Is it normal for one country to partition its next-door neighbour? If so, when do we get to divide Britain in two?
Is it normal for one country to have more than 5,000 troops stationed on its neighbour’s territory? If so, when do we get to station 5,000 Irish troops in, say, Yorkshire?
Is it normal for one country to exercise legislative control over its neighbour? If so, when do we get to pass some laws governing conduct in, say, Lancashire?
The truth is, the Mayor of Dublin and the Irish president and the other voices assuring us that QE2 will be welcome in Ireland want the Irish people to pretend that a big, hairy, smelly gorilla called British rule in Ireland doesn’t exist. It’s not there. Don’t mention it and you won’t see it. Instead, concentrate on the nice flowers in this vase, admire these lovely light fittings, get this decent woman from London a cup of tea, would you, and show her some Irish hospitality. And if some members of the family start shouting that there’s a gorilla in the room and if some of them try to remove the gorilla by force, well then naturally we’ll denounce them as extremists who can’t move on, have no philosophy or programme and really should be locked up.
I hate to hark back to Orwell yet again, but wasn’t he the man who depicted a state where Lies were Truth, where War was Peace, where Black was White? Orwell, thou should’st be living at this hour...