Sunday 21 July 2019

Who else was royally bored with non-stop coverage of state visit?

Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip bid farewell to the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at Windsor Castle
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip bid farewell to the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at Windsor Castle
'Alan Shatter was also invited to attend the state banquet, but sadly he won't actually open his invitation for another 10 days'

Oliver Callan

It was one giant step for a small man, one giant bore for mankind. The Irish state visit to Britain felt like a wedding that dragged on too long. The only winners were giddy RTÉ presenters and reporters who seemed to be on a dare to crowbar the most mentions of "historic" and "pageantry" into their saccharine-coated coverage. While the British press either ignored the visit or gave it short shrift at best, to the Irish media it was like the Pope's election on steroids.

Tuesday night's Masterchef was fittingly replaced by the state banquet in which Michael D looked relieved to finally attend an event where dinner would arrive before midnight. The famine at the IFTAs just three days before must've had him gnawing on his life-sized award as he left the cacophonous fiasco that is now known as "Irish For Terrible Awards". The Hogwarts-length feasting table at Windsor was so vast it seemed BOD was only invited in the hope that Amy Huberman would put her table-setting skills to use.

As the camera panned to Daniel Day Lewis before the toast, we half expected the queen to blurt out "Let Christy take it". The monarch had used cúpla focail in Dublin during her visit and in return Michael D sported a bizarre stage-English accent for his speech.

Michael D's competition for coverage on UK channels was an even more diminutive public figure; Prince George, who was with his parents William and Kate in New Zealand. The picture of the week was the duchess standing next to a Maori warrior who's bare backside was on full view. Given her new duties in the Windsor household, one expected her to flip him over and strap a Pampers on him out of force of habit. Or at least instruct a nanny to do so.

Back at the Game of Thrones banquet, it was a perfectly sanitised view of the British Isles with grey heads and white faces only. Even the Westminster usher known as Black Rod was white. The only non-white face was the well-fed puce countenance of Eamon Gilmore. The absentee landlord of Labour attended every lunch and dinner all week, determined to eat his way through the collapse of his party back home.

On the Nine News Tommy Gorman was doing those trademark dramatic pauses of his that gives us faint hope his mic has been cut off by cringing producers, on the verge of tears while disgorging more cliches.

The most striking scene in the bulletin was the sight of Martin McGuinness in full white-tie dinner attire, looking like the scheming footman from Downton Abbey. He was talking to David Cameron, no doubt denying responsibility for the 21-gun salute at Windsor Castle earlier in the day. Wednesday's Morning Ireland was broadcast from a genuflecting position, as banal details about our first citizen's trip took on wild significance. Presenter Cathal MacCoille had tweeted that he'd a lump in his throat watching the pomp around Windsor. Presumably it was just vomit induced by the ceremonial ostentation unfurling around him.

Over on Newstalk, Pat Kenny was interviewing Bertie Ahern about the peace process in what felt like Reeling in the Years 2007. Then RTE's Rear of Leinster House Correspondent David Davin-Power was on Today with Sean O'Rourke, telling us "who" the President and his wife were wearing. Louise Kennedy designs on Sabina and, although he didn't say, probably St Bernard on Michael D. For anyone following Sabina's change of outfits, she was dressed in pink by Kennedy at Windsor and at Westminster she was dressed in purple by Quality Street.

On the same show, Olivia O'Leary told us how Prince Philip seems like "so much fun". This felt like an overly charitable way of describing his frequent racist and sexist gaffes in public. It fell to former BBC royal reporter Jennie Bond to bring sobriety to the love-in as she reminded us that the queen is very frosty and her husband downright nasty to journalists.

Next was the Irish arts and culture element of the trip in the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday. Well, at least what producer Philip King and the Orts Council qualifies as art and culture. Paul Brady, Joseph O'Connor and Glen Hansard were all let in with a host of others too anonymous to mention. There was no sign of popular rabble like Brendan O'Carroll or Shane McGowan and the type of ilk too often shunned by those who rule the Orts. The queen quite rightly stayed at home, hopefully listening to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash while lolling at clips of Mrs Brown's Boys on YouTube.

By the time Friday dawned, the coverage was so worn out and round-the-clock that DDP had still been going through the night, reporting that Sabina C was now fast asleep wearing a Louise Kennedy duvet, while Michael D was nestled next to her in a pair of ages 8-10 sized Spiderman pyjamas. There was pomp, history and lots of eating. For a small man, Michael D's State visit took one hell of an ignoring.


Woes left behind as Irish wow Windsor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny donned the dinner tails at Windsor this week, scarcely believing his luck that yet another Cabinet crisis was being washed away by photos of him hanging out with slebs like David Cameron and Terry Wogan. Alan Shatter, (pictured), was also invited to attend the banquet, but sadly he won't actually open his invitation for another 10 days.

It wasn't a week for objectivity. Kenny told everyone to leave the past behind as he welcomed the attendance of Martin McGuinness at the dinner saying "people need to move on". He'd clearly forgotten his unforgiving views on Sinn Fein in his pre-election Late Late Show chat, vowing never to share power because of their "Republican" activities. As Ryan Tubridy challenged the squirming leader, he stammered over questions on how he expected Unionists to do what he was refusing. Enda hasn't done a live probing interview since – and that one was in 2010.

His counterpart David Cameron had spent the week feebly supporting his Culture Secretary who eventually resigned over her expenses bill. He could've taken ministerial survival tips from Enda, himself, the recipient of €1,000 a month unvouched expenses. Dave would've choked on his Tournedos of Windsor Estate beef had he known how Shatter has weathered rows over whistleblowers, 30 years of Garda tapes, the sacking of a police chief and a penalty points scandal while finding time to squeeze in a fortnight's trip to Mexico. Dave would be forgiven for thinking Count Shatter was some sort of immortal creature who avoids direct sunlight and can fly above any storm.

The Count was quiet this week, receiving more letters to his department caked in suspicious-looking powder. It shouldn't be that surprising since most of his post is left there unopened for weeks, gathering dust.


A battle of minds

April is a season of anniversaries such as the sinking of Titanic and the Easter Rising, but rarely does marking the past quite affect anything in the present day as tomorrow will.

Liverpool take on Manchester City in Anfield with the weight of the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough on their shoulders. The match is being billed as a deciding battle in the Premier League, even though both sides have up to six matches left to play.

Emotion will be expected to outweigh form if you're a Liverpool supporter. Added to the occasion is the knowledge in Anfield that the playing days of Steven Gerrard, right, are numbered and it might be his last chance to win the Premier League medal that has escaped his 16 years in the red shirt.

José Mourinho's Chelsea, meanwhile, slipped into the Champions League semis while David Moyes' Man United slipped out.

Picture football's updated Wall of Fame: Mourinho – A Brilliant Mind. Alex Ferguson – A Legendary Mind. David Moyes – Never Mind.


Callan’s Kicks is broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 at 6.30pm every Friday

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