The Queen of England will visit Ireland next week. The visit, the first by a British monarch since before the Easter Rebellion, is curious for its timing.
Those people in the 26 counties of the Irish Republic, referred to as citizens, are in the midst of a budget that can ill afford, never mind the expense of a royal dog and pony show. Those residing in the remaining six, referred to as subjects of the Crown, are used to seeing royalty of one sort or another at the Ballykinlear or Drumaad barracks awarding the George Cross to the British Army or the police for “contributions to peace.”
Actually the visit is all about America and Americans or more specifically the Obama administration and members of Congress. Ireland is but a backdrop for a larger purpose.
The invitation to Queen Elizabeth was extended last year by the Republic’s President Mary McAleese in what some claim was an attempt to distract from the economic woes of the Fianna Fáil government. Fat chance of that. Even a royal visit can’t work that kind of magic.
But it took 215 years and Speaker Tom Foley, a genuine salivating royal, before a British monarch was allowed to address the United States Congress in 1991. So why, after a mere 95 years from the Easter Rebellion withwounds still healing in the North, was the invitation taken up by Her Majesty’s Government?
The explanation is simple but subtle. Think of prime minister David Cameron as a Hollywood producer and the queen as a prop or actress. She goes where she is told and speaks what she is told to say. Cameron has determined thatit would be politically expedient for the queen to visit Ireland and employ her handshaking, smiling and waving skills for photo-ops and publicity.
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England understands like few other nations that the corporate, political and media spheres in America are abundant with Irish names. Some, like former Speaker Foley, are harmless dupes when the subject was the conflict in Ireland butothers not so.
Bill Flynn and Tom Moran of Mutual of America, philanthropist Charles Feeney, Congressmen Chris Smith and Peter King, Chris Matthews of Hardball are but a few of those meddlesome types who are curious and questioning about England’s role in Ireland. No one every accused the Irish of short memories.
The month of May is rich with history of the Irish freedom struggle from the British executions of the Rising leaders, the death of hunger striker and member of parliament Bobby Sands, and the cruelest atrocity of the conflict, the no-warning bombing of Dublin Monaghan by British army lackeys. Cue the Queen!
Britain’s agenda of business and political interests in America is extensive. Aircraft landing and BBC broadcasting rights need approval, and talks over tariffs, taxes, tourism, foreign policy, investments and economic policies and her majesty’s subjects resident here are always on the table.
Keeping Irish America and key legislators in the British fold on these matters is no small job. Every facet of thequeen’s Irish visit including photos and remarks, will soon be in the hands of members of Congress, Obama officials and key business figures. The message and theme will be how well things are going in Ireland.
Absent from such propaganda will be any references to the persecution and imprisonment of Gerry McGeough, the murders of lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, the British army role in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, which cost 34 innocent men, women and children their lives.
Even the work of the Historical Enquiries Team, tasked with examining the unsolved murders of nearly 1000 Catholics and a key part of the Good Friday Agreement between the two countries will not be mentioned. The HET is England’s equivalent of a search for the truth when they already know it is damning and prefer to play for time.
British ambassador to Ireland Julian King has promised an “exciting celebration of the close ties between the two countries” but be assured Whitehall is watching Washington and Wall Street.
British poet Edmund Spencer first romanticized Queen Elizabeth I crushing of the Irish in “The Faerie Queen” and, with one exception, England has been able to keep America out of Ireland.
The British knew the game was up when President Clinton granted a visa to Gerry Adams and a new strategy was necessary if they were to be in Ireland for another 400 years. Cue the queen!