That queen and this country
During yesterday evening’s news, RTE reporter David Davin-Power made an interesting observation. Talking about the huge security presence which meant that the streets were not thronged with onlookers, Davin-Power reckoned that the streets would have been empty anyway, even if …
During yesterday evening’s news, RTE reporter David Davin-Power made an interesting observation. Talking about the huge security presence which meant that the streets were not thronged with onlookers, Davin-Power reckoned that the streets would have been empty anyway, even if the city hadn’t been on the kind of lockdown usually seen in films involving an invasion of mutant aliens. There was never really going to be thousands of happy Dubliners wearing Union Jacks at Queen Elizabeth as she drove in her jeep up and down O’Connell Street.
On the flipside, there was also never going to be thousands of angry-as-hell Dubliners protesting at the visit and waving their fists at the royal cavalcade. Capital city citizens have better things to do. The antis were always going to be largely represented by the usual hooded and masked coterie who come out on occasions like this. Dissidents and dissenters will be with us forever and will enjoy “sneaking regard” support from certain elements of the community. They’ll exist and get publicity and attention and enjoy the right to protest, but they’re a minority of a minority of a minority.
However, there was never really going to be a huge public fuss over this visit. Nice old lady who is head of state of big country next door to Ireland comes to town. Nothing really to see here, bar 10,000 gardaí and Defence Forces personnel standing around, whinges on Twitter about problems getting around the city and complaints on The Frontline about the cost of it all. Life goes on.
Of course, I’m not denying that there is huge symbolic importance to this visit and carefully stage-managed appearances at the Garden Of Remembrance and Croke Park because it puts the cap on the normalisation of relationships between the two countries. Yesterday’s wreath-laying ceremony and bowed heads were greatly significant, as every talking head on the radio and TV kept saying, and acknowledge what happened in the past, but it’s time to move on. The vast majority of those who live in this country (and on this island to boot) have long moved on.
The normalisation of relationships between us and them happened a long time ago and in the simplest and most unpolitical of ways. It happened through culture, sport and the general yin and yang of everyday life. We watch British TV shows, we follow British football teams, we listen to British music. There are over 110,000 folks who consider themselves to be British living amongst us, according to the 2006 census. Some of us may even be married to them. We’ll still rib the Brits and their national sports teams and sportsmen when they wobble and lose their bottle in major tournaments, but that’s just inter-country japery. Once it’s over, we’ll take down the Jamie Oliver cookbook and prepare a nice supper.
No doubt, the peace process in Northern Ireland helped matters too, but nornalisation was in train long before that long, tortuous process from terrorism to the ennui of everyday politics began. The biggest effect of the peace process for many of us in the Republic is that it means we can stop pretending that we care about what happens up north. We rarely voice that opinion, but deep down, the North is way down our list of priorities.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth will get on with her visit. She and her husband will head to Croker and the horses and the Rock of Cashel and Cork, like any other senior British couple on a midweek break to Ireland. There will be a couple of boring dinners and probably some muttered complaints between the pair of them over breakfast about the springs in the bed in the guest bedroom in Farmleigh. It’s a state visit. Nothing really to see. Time to move on.