Monday, 7 March 2011
Come into the parlour, there's...
Maybe better start by asking “Why not?” Every year thousands of English people visit Ireland north and south, and we fall over ourselves to welcome them. Apart from our natural disposition towards friendliness – and it does exist – these people bring much-needed revenue. The notion of making them unwelcome because they’re English is so ridiculous, it doesn’t cross the mind of normal people.
So can’t we extend the same welcoming hand to Queen Elizabeth when she comes to the south in May? Alex Attwood says “all right-thinking people” will be more than happy she’s visiting and will welcome her. The Venerable Organ this morning gives its editorial over exclusively to echoing this SDLP line. Surely they’re right? If we cheerfully welcome Englishman Joe Bloggs, shouldn’t we do the same for Englishwoman Elizabeth Windsor?
Well we can welcome her and thousands such as Alex Attwood and the writers of the VO editorials undoubtedly will. But before we pull out our little union flags and hurry southwards, let’s consider a few things.
The Joe Bloggs-Elizabeth Windsor comparison is fake. Joe Bloggs represents Joe Bloggs; Elizabeth Windsor represents the British state – she’s its head. She is also Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, which includes the Parachute Regiment – remember them? The people of Ballymurphy and Derry do.
But, you say, that’s the past. The Good Friday Agreement has been signed, the violence is ended – in the circumstances, why would anyone not welcome a visit by the British monarch? Other, of course, than stuck-in-the-past Anglophobes and those wedded to violence. “The Queen comes here to the North regularly and there’s no problem” little Alex might add. “What’s the difference in a visit to the south?”
Because by welcoming the head of the British state, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, that section of our country which has gained independence from Britain is effectively saying “Right. That’s it. We’ve got our sovereign state, the north prefers to live under British rule, everyone’s happy. The historic quarrel between our two islands is now ended”.
Except it’s not. Close one eye as much as you like, the elephant continues to squat in the middle of the parlour. It’s an elephant with a long name: Partition And British Rule. Those who urge a cead mile failte should wake up and smell the elephant-dung. If they don’t, the SDLP and the VO’s favourite monarch risks getting a welcome similar to that accorded the Love Ulster people in 2006.