Clearing away the mush and gush of the State visit

Opinion: Irish elite were celebrating their acceptance into a particular layer of society

‘There is an island in the south Pacific whose people adhere to a cargo cult and – so it’s said – regard the queen’s husband as a god. We are not there yet, but it’s early days.’ Above,  the banquet held at Windsor Castle during the State visit of President Higgins. Photograph: Alan Betson

‘There is an island in the south Pacific whose people adhere to a cargo cult and – so it’s said – regard the queen’s husband as a god. We are not there yet, but it’s early days.’ Above, the banquet held at Windsor Castle during the State visit of President Higgins. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 12:00

‘Oh Irish men forget the past/ And think of the day that’s coming fast/When we will all be civilised/Neat and clean and well-advised/Won’t Mother England be surprised/Whack fol the diddle all the di do day.”

The day dawned last week and thank god we didn’t let ourselves down. Spick and span and all at ease in the knowledge that anybody who sniggered at the sight of us would instantly be anathematised as a backwoodsperson and an opponent of peace. The thought surely popped into others’ minds, too: why don’t we break entirely with the attitudes of the olden days and get down on our knees?

Is there anywhere else on Earth where splicing a quail’s egg with Queen Elizabeth can be seen as a symbol of leaving quaint habits behind? There are places, of course, where she is regarded as the newsworthy head of a celebrity family or a tourist attraction or a harmless reminder of an imagined past. But a banquet in the gilded surrounding of Windsor Castle as a cutting-edge event? Dear god.

There is an island in the south Pacific whose people adhere to a cargo cult and – so it’s said – regard the queen’s husband as a god. We are not there yet, but it’s early days.


Gush and mush
As gush and mush engulfed the land last week, Prof Roy Foster surfaced to give us his expert opinion that relations between the British and Irish ruling classes were now so intimate as to be “nearly as good as sex”. What sad, limited lives some of these academics lead.

Michael O’Leary found himself in a spot of bother a couple of weeks back for making a joke about having sex with the queen. Extremely offensive, spluttered specialists in etiquette. But some of us found the remark among the least offensive of O’Leary’s oeuvre, certainly less offensive than Foster’s sleeveen intervention. A matter of taste, I suppose.

Actually, the professor didn’t use the phrase “ruling class”. Far too old-fashioned when dealing with the House of Windsor. But, objectively as we used to say, that’s what his words meant.

The propaganda that came pulsing through the media for the duration of the visit told that the meeting between the queen and President Michael D Higgins and Martin McGuinness will have facilitated reconciliation between the British and Irish people. But the vast majority of us have no need of the queen’s involvement to achieve reconciliation with our British neighbours. Like many others once corralled within the empire we have long managed to combine a distaste for imperial power with congenial friendship towards the British people.

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