Friday 15 December 2017

Now it's time for a royal buy-buy

Gemma O'Doherty

For many, the seminal picture of the Queen's visit was the moment she bowed her head to remember those who had fought for Irish freedom. But for me, this one of her sharing a hearty giggle with fishmonger Pat O'Connell in Cork's English Market was the winner.

On their tour of the country's oldest food market, the royal couple were presented with a hamper of home-grown goodies, including everything from Her Majesty's favourite farmhouse cheese, Milleens from Beara, smoked salmon and Clonakilty black pudding to local free-range duck, porter cake and mozzarella from the country's first buffalo herd in Macroom. Staff at Buckingham Palace have said that the royal fridges will have a distinctively green flavour for weeks to come and more orders are expected to follow.

But what if Queen Elizabeth had been given a day to herself to explore our shops, our tastes, our daily habits? Would she have been surprised to step into Grafton Street or Dundrum Town Centre to find row after row of British chain stores or the sight of 24-hour Tescos on the outskirts of our decimated country towns? What would she have thought about the flooding of our newsstands by British newspapers with their phoney Oirish facades?

She might have had another giggle, this time at our expense. And who could blame her? After all, she could only conclude that her nation's former colony is still very much a Little Britain and that the gushing pride in all things Irish during her visit was a little superficial.

For as we watched her plane depart for London, most of us switched back to Corrie, Sky News, or the evening's Premiership game. And there's nothing wrong with that.

But when tourists come to Ireland, they want an Irish experience. They love stepping on to a shamrock-bearing plane and hearing the lilt of our other native language from the cockpit. They want brown soda bread not bland sliced white, Tayto crisps not Walkers, Guinness not Bud, Dublin Bay Prawns not Indonesian shrimp. Many of them have already done London. They want something different when they come here.

It's up to us to make sure they get it. But we can only do that by practising what we preach, and buying Irish where and whenever we can.

Not for reasons of national pride or sentimentality, but for pure and simple survival. Our dwindling home-grown brands are facing the battle of their lives as they struggle to compete in a cut-throat global market.

So, as you push your trolley around the aisles, look out for the tricolour on the goods you buy. When you eat out, ask the waiter if the chicken on the menu is Irish. And when you send presents to friends and family abroad, make an effort -- hard as it will be -- to find gifts with a 'made in Ireland' label on them.

Then, knowing you have done your bit, sit back and, just like the Queen, watch re-runs of The X Factor to your heart's content.

After all, we wouldn't have Jedward or Mary B without it!

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