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Eilis O'Hanlon: Spiffing adventures of the cartoon terrorist

THE poet Matthew Arnold once wondered "whether, upon the whole earth, there is anything so unintelligent, so unapt to perceive how the world is really going, as an ordinary young Englishman of our upper class".

To which the correct answer is: Yes, there is. An ordinary young Englishwoman of your upper class. Someone like Rose Dugdale, for example.

Someone at RTE clearly overindulged on the sherry this New Year when they decided it was a good idea to devote a sizeable chunk of the morning's radio to an interview with Dugdale, an English heiress who gave it all up to come to Ireland and fight to free us from the colonial grip of her native land. Listening to her wittering on, unrepentant to the last, was bad enough. But on the John Murray Show? Seriously? There are light broadcasters who could have handled such an interview with aplomb. Marty Whelan, say, or Mike Murphy. But Murray, bless him, isn't one of them. Rose probably couldn't believe her luck that she was getting such an easy ride, with her history, dropping bombs in milk churns out of helicopters and all.

Then again, she was always lucky. Lucky most of all not to have been shot on sight when she turned up in the North offering in her plummy voice to fight for Irish freedom. Maybe it was the fact that she was such an absurd, jolly-hockey-sticks figure that gave her a shield of safety, though even then the IRA never trusted her completely.

You've got to love the English upper classes. They're all daft as brushes, but Rose took it to a new level. Aristocrats used to go on the Grand Tour. Dugdale used her juvenile jaunt overseas to blow stuff up. Or try to, at any rate. (Those milk churns never did go off. Maybe try semi-skimmed next time?) She went from hunting and fishin' to raidin' and bombin' in one easy step.

Even growing up in Belfast during the Troubles, I remember her being a laughing stock. No less dangerous for it, but essentially a ridiculous cartoon. Now she's turned up as one of the Mna an IRA on TG4, presumably because she's still around to tell her tale. Not that she's managed to reflect on her life whatsoever.

Not only is Rose totally unrepentant about her conversion to radical chic, she keeps going on about how "exciting" it all was. She makes it sound as if becoming an IRA bomber was like being in the Famous Five, having spiffing adventures with lashings of ginger beer. The irony is that she thought she was a freedom fighter, but actually will be remembered best as another in a long line of upper class English eccentrics. Tally ho!

She wasn't even committed enough to Ireland's cause to bother learning the language properly after 40 years on Irish soil. Dugdale was the one guest who insisted on speaking in English throughout. Still, that's Brits for you.

Sunday Independent