Sunday 20 October 2019

Eoghan Harris: Tubridy tries to have it both ways on the royal wedding

Eoghan Harris cartoon.
Eoghan Harris cartoon.
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Ryan Tubridy's reversals on the royal wedding provide the perfect peg for pondering our ambivalent attitude to England and its institutions.

Last month, on his RTE radio show, the morning after the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Tubridy was in republican mode.

"I find the whole monarchy preposterous. The fact that you would bow and scrape to another human being. It bowls me over that people do that."

Back in May 2011, however, when he gave the Queen and Prince Philip a tour of Guinness, he passed up the chance to publicly reject royalism by refusing the role of deferential Irish guide and courtier.

That noted, his professed indifference to the royal wedding last November seemed to remove any lingering doubts.

Last week, however, as the stock of mixed-race Meghan Markle rightly rose with right-on liberals, Tubridy changed his tune.

He suddenly posted a photo of himself and Meghan on his Instatubridy account with a casual comment that failed to dispel doubts.

"At the White House on Patrick's Day three years ago, I was introduced to an elegant actress named Meghan Markle, so we took a selfie."

The royal "we" gives the impression he and Meghan made that decision together. But that was not so.

"We walked from the W Hotel across the road to the White House and I said sure we might as well do a selfie for the craic."

Deploying the democratic word ''craic'' cannot banish the suspicion that Tubs is trying to have it both ways.

The minor snobbery of his contradictory response to the royal wedding reflects a wider apparent ambivalence about our attitude to England and its institutions.

I say apparent because I believe what I call the ''resting mood'' of the country is reflected by the Cork crowds who came out to cheer the Queen.

Some of the worst Brit-bashing comes from those bourgeois nationalists I call Foxrock republicans, who strike anti-British poses but would dance on the Tricolour for an OBE.

Lest you think I am some sucky West Brit, let me remind you I am no more welcome at the British Embassy than I am on RTE current affairs programmes - and for precisely the same political reasons.

Before the Good Friday Agreement I was a fairly regular guest both at the British Embassy and RTE.

But as soon as I began expressing scepticism about Sinn Fein's manipulation of the peace process, I was suddenly not welcome at either embassy or RTE - both subscribe to the Department of Foreign Affairs policy of see no evil.

The DFA's direct or indirect influence on the British Embassy's guest list became clear the last time I attended a reception.

Far from seeing any friendly faces, I found the room was full of Foxrock republicans trying to conceal their delight at being invited by being boorishly anti-British.

The British passion for entertaining their enemies brings me to the only part of English character which repels me - the self-hating passion for slumming with Sinn Fein and its supporters.

But that aside, like many Irish people, I am a big admirer, not of the British, but of the English character.

I do not believe Ireland was a colony in the same sense as India. We are too intermingled, by geography, history, and language.

Ask me the John Cleese question - what did the English ever do for us? - and I'll give you this brief reply.

They gave us the English language, and as a result Yeats, Joyce, Beckett. They gave us parliamentary democracy, an honest civil service, a railway system.

They took in a million of our people in the last century, and gave them work and status.

They stoically endured 25 years of IRA bombing in our name. Recently they gave us €9bn to get us through the recession.

Sean Lemass, a Taoiseach who, unlike Leo Varadkar, did not play to the green gallery, said that if the Irish people had a fault it was a tendency to feel sorry for ourselves.

That was an incisive insight. What a pity then that Leo Varadkar prefers to pander to that sense of victimhood in Irish nationalism, particularly Northern nationalism.

When he repeatedly told us that never again would northern nationalists be left behind, he conjured up dated images of an oppressed minority.

Far from being left behind, northern Catholics are forging ahead of unionists in most fields. They have dual nationality, civil rights, a free education and health system, and in QUB outnumber unionists. Lord Brian Kerr, a northern Catholic, is the most influential liberal judge on the UK Supreme Court.

Leo Varadkar seems blind to the dark side of Irish nationalism, as shown by Sinn Fein's spiteful treatment of Bob Geldof.

Irish nationalism is nowadays mostly a narcissistic exercise in what I call triumphalist victimhood.

Real republicans do not rear up at every small slight by a British politician or broadcasters. We realise they are not racist but arise from the indifference and inattention of all big countries to small ones.

Let's hope Leo Varadkar doesn't encounter the same inattention from the EU powers when they have finished using us as a baton to beat up on the Brits.

But he's certainly giving hostages to fortune by wildly waving the green flag. Last Thursday, asked by Sky News about antagonising the British, he boasted we were part of the majority European 27 against the lone British.

Simon Coveney, to his credit, has been somewhat more restrained in his remarks than the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar's green dog-whistling suggests he's laying the ground for a spring election followed by some kind of sweetheart deal with Sinn Fein.

Everything supports that speculation, including the recent soft Dail mood music between the Taoiseach and Gerry Adams - who reserves his barbs for Fianna Fail.

Meantime, Micheal Martin has repeatedly - and vainly - invited the Taoiseach to lay off the DUP and focus instead on Sinn Fein's failure to restore the Northern Executive.

Martin and Fianna Fail could wave the green flag a lot more credibly than Varadkar if they wanted to.

They prefer to act like political adults. Because when Brexit is over we will have to pick up the broken pieces - so the less we break now the better.

Rejecting the false motto that England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity - England's difficulty is our difficulty, too - Martin's model seems to be Eamon de Valera's relations with England during World War II. Formally neutral, De Valera's real policy was covert cooperation with England's struggle while keeping the boot on the throat of Sinn Fein-IRA at home.

Martin shares De Valera's visceral suspicion of Sinn Fein with a depth of passion that Varadkar can fake but can never feel.

De Valera named his party carefully. Fianna Fail stands for ''the people of Ireland'', an inclusive concept, whereas Sinn Fein stands for ''ourselves alone'', an exclusive one.

Dev backed words with deeds, sending the Dublin fire brigades north to put out the Luftwaffe's blaze. The only road to a Republic.

Sunday Independent

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