I watched the second of the Terry Wogan two-parter ‘ Terry Wogan’s Ireland’ on BBC TV last night and found myself feeling sorry, sorry, sorry I’m not English. Had I been, I’d have loved the programme. There were lots of aerial shots showing gorgeous green fields and slate-blue water, lots of cheerfully-painted shops and comfortable cars (Terry in a chauffeur-driven Merc) and lots of compliant local celebs ( Brian D’Arcy, Gerry Anderson, David Norris). And running through it all, the soft spine of a blancmange hour, Terry himself...Sorry. Sir Terry himself.
Was there ever a man better able to glide over the awkward truth of things? He visits South Armagh: yes, it was known as bandit country during the Troubles but would you look at the Irish dancing! He talks with Brian D’Arcy: yes, there was terrible abuse in the Catholic Church but would you look at the Celtic beauty of Lough Erne! He tramps the walls of Derry with Gerry Anderson: yes there was Catholic-Protestant antipathy but burble burble burble. He talks with David Norris, present front-runner to succeed Mary McAleese as President of Ireland: wasn’t the late Queen Mother wonderfully Irish with her fag and gin and love of horses, and really, it’s all tosh, there’s no difference between Irish and English people, we’re all a mixture. He talks with Gay Byrne: no, Terry doesn’t believe in God, but if he dies and discovers there is one, he’ll say ‘I don’t believe it! Ha ha haaaa!’ Injustice, war, national identity, eternity itself: all smoothed away with a reassuring chuckle from good old Sir Tel. Wouldn’t it be great if all Irishmen were like that all of the time?