Saturday 1 October 2016

Happy is the country that has no history

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

ROYAL VISIT: Britain's Prince Charles is coming to Ireland
ROYAL VISIT: Britain's Prince Charles is coming to Ireland

The news that Prince Charles and wife Camilla may soon visit Co Sligo, where Lord Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, prompted Newstalk's Lunchtime to call in local historian Joe McGowan for a comment.

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Jonathan Healy began by asking Mr McGowan if he remembered the day when Mountbatten and three others were murdered.

He did. He was putting the "finishing touches" to his house at the time, on a fine day after a few weeks of rain; but he didn't particularly want to talk about it. "Things have gone back to normal here" since then, he explained, and he worried that an official visit would cement bad associations about the place in people's minds.

"The tabloids are going to resurrect everything, and things are going very well here in Mullaghmore. We have many initiatives. People are getting on with promoting the area, we're delighted we're a start point on the Wild Atlantic Way, and that's the kind of positive publicity that I'd personally like to see."

Which is understandable in one way, but decidedly odd in another. A historian who doesn't want to talk about the past? That has to be a first.

More forthcoming was Paul Deering, deputy editor of the Sligo Champion, who was on Tuesday's Today With Sean O'Rourke. The RTE presenter asked if a visit might bring back painful memories for locals, but Deering preferred to concentrate on the positives. There would be "poignancy", yes - but the area would benefit enormously.

That message was reinforced on The John Murray Show by "royal watcher" Noel Cunningham, on the line from Donegal, who recalled the boost in tourism that Ireland received as a result both of the Queen's trip here and the President's State visit over there.

"The relationship (between the two countries) is on a good footing," he said. A few protests won't change that.

He also took the chance to puncture some myths about Prince Charles, such as the one about him having a butler to squeeze the toothpaste.

It's not true? How disappointing.

Liveline welcomed back an old favourite in the form of Aine Ni Chonaill of the Immigration Control Platform, who was invited on to discuss the deaths of nearly 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean.

She didn't disappoint.

Told by Mick Rafferty, who works with asylum seekers in Dublin, that "compassion and dignity knows no frontiers", Ni Chonaill's reply was characteristically succinct: "Bullshit".

The debate was a classic example of how nebulous liberal compassion loses in a battle with unambiguous conviction. Rafferty pointed the finger at "American foreign policy" for the mess, whilst dodging the harder question of how many African refugees Ireland should take in.

"How long is a piece of string?" was his less than satisfactory answer.

Ni Chonaill's position may have sounded uncaring, but it was intellectually consistent: "We are entitled to our borders."

Disapprove away, but Liveline knew what it was getting when it invited her on. Any outrage is disingenuous.

Sunday Independent

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