In spite of cancer, my persona has not changed: I remain the archetypal cranky-cheerful Corkman of which Niall Tóibín and Brendan O’Connor are prime examples.
Normally, readers get my cranky side. That’s because I believe Sinn Féin-IRA is the most malignant force in modern Irish history and, like Cassandra, I must keep predicting trouble, hoping to prevent it.
But this sunny weekend I am putting Cassandra on hold and concentrating on four reasons, from the political to the personal, which give me some cause for joy.
First, after being taken in at the start, most of the media can now see that Mary Lou McDonald’s serial statements of sympathy for Queen Elizabeth, and her simpering at Prince Charles, are only spin.
Indeed, no matter what worthy cause Sinn Féin takes up, it is fruit of a poisoned tree, tainted from the start by it being used as a weapon to advance its dark project.
For example, the political aim of the current fake love-in between Sinn Féin and the Brits is aimed at making Northern Protestants feel even more isolated.
Senator Michael McDowell was not being rhetorical in a recent column in The Irish Times that was headed: “Puppet masters won’t allow any Sinn Féin apology for Mountbatten.”
Consider the two sentences of McDonald’s pretend apology. “The army and the armed forces associated with Prince Charles carried out many, many violent actions on our island. And I can say, of course, I am sorry that that happened.”
Let’s subject these two sentences to what the Chicago School of criticism called close reading, starting with the second sentence: “And I can say, of course, I’m sorry that happened.”
Consider the “can say”. As in: “This is what I am allowed to say.”
Now move on to “I am sorry that happened”. Start with the weasel word “that”, which is meant to hide the fact she is referring to the murder of a party of innocents.
Above all, as in almost every Sinn Féin statement trying to spin away the guts and gore of the IRA’s murder campaign, you find the use of the passive voice, as in “I am sorry that happened”.
So nobody carried out the “that”. It just “happened” without the intervention of any active agent such as an IRA murder gang.
The novelist Marilynne Robinson remarks that the first step to being an authentic person is to stop saying things in the passive voice, such as “Well, things got f**ked up”, and start saying “I f**ked up”.
Finally, McDonald turns the passive voice into an aggressive one and brazenly blames the British army for a callous IRA murder.
Another version of the passive-aggressive syndrome is that whenever Sinn Féin leaders are in close proximity to the royals they ambush them.
To me there is something sadistic about the way Gerry Adams ambushed Prince Charles at Galway after the prince’s melancholy visit to Mullaghmore in 2015.
At a reception in Galway University, Adams suddenly appeared at Prince Charles’s side, thrusting out his hand, backed by the rictus grin.
The proof that this was not part of the protocol is that Prince Charles had a teacup in his hand but politely managed the handshake.
Forcing their victims to feign forgiveness for the sake of peace has long been a feature of the IRA’s psychological weaponry.
Adams thrust out his hand at me without warning the same way years ago, and for weeks afterwards I felt my hand was soiled no matter how often I washed it.
The second reason for my limited rejoicing was the Spotlight poll in the Republic that featured the contradiction that 51pc would vote in favour of a united Ireland but 59pc said NI would still be in the UK in 10 years.
As you know, I believe no vote for a united Ireland has any value unless unity will be implemented soon after. Otherwise, it’s like asking people if they’d like a Mars bar.
My third reason for celebration is a letter from Proinsias De Rossa in The Irish Times last Friday which begins flatly: “Please let us all now step back from this Border poll nonsense before it’s too late.”
Then he bravely sets up a sacred cow for slaughter. “It is a common part of our public discourse in the Republic of Ireland to say one agrees with, wants, or supports the idea of a ‘united Ireland’.”
He then puts a question few dare to put in public. “But why? Why is this necessary? Why does virtually everyone in public life and those who write editorials for The Irish Times feel the need to support it and even describe it as ‘a noble aspiration’?”
He concludes: “Surely community reconciliation in Northern Ireland is the urgent task we should be engaging with as a ‘noble aspiration’?”
De Rossa’s letter shows he continues to grow, long after he stepped back from his public career. Few of his contemporaries would have the courage to act with such good authority.
Finally, a few words about Prince Philip’s funeral. As a fan of military ceremonial, the main author of the Sharpe television series and a former television producer, I watched it at many levels and little was lost.
Major General Alastair Bruce, erudite on every military detail, shared the commentary with Sky’s royal correspondent, Rhiannon Mills, who was competent but not inspired.
Early on, the cameras lingered on a carriage seat on which were Philip’s cap and gloves and a little red box. Rhiannon told us about the cap and gloves but not about the box.
Being a gentleman, Bruce let it pass until a little later when he referred back to “the all-important little red box, containing the sugar lumps for the ponies which Prince Philip never went without”.
Later, Bruce gave me a lift when he talked about the Regiment of Rifles that formed the guard of honour for Prince Philip — the same Greenjackets who, led by Sean Bean, are the heroes of the Sharpe series.
Referring to the Rifles’ unique quick-step, which in its campaign version ate up the miles during Wellington’s brilliant Peninsular campaign — you can see a good example of it in Sharpe’s Eagle — Bruce was at his most accurate and acerbic best.
“We’re likely to see them come down behind us, at the Prince Philip speed of thinking — the 140 paces a minute of the Rifles.” And then somewhat tartly: “You’ve got the wrong music.”
Sky got the right faster feed and the commentator asked: “Alastair — the uniform? The dark green?”
Alastair Bruce: “Yes, the dark green. I suppose those people who know drama well will remember Sharpe, a character who came from that tradition.” And that made my day.
That’s because the Sharpe series, digitally re-mastered, is now available free on Sky and is perfect family viewing as Covid comes to a close.
A swashbuckling military romp in the style of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy, it follows the fortunes of Captain Richard Sharpe and three Irishmen — the Duke of Wellington, his head of intelligence Major Hogan, and Sergeant Patrick Harper from Donegal — in self-contained but linked stories.
Although Sharpe is nearly 30 years old, the late Sarah Hughes of The Guardian said it had aged so well she made the series her comfort viewing to get her through a World Cup.
Starring Sean Bean, Daragh O’Malley and Brian Cox, with cameos by the young Daniel Craig and an even younger Liz Hurley, it is still immensely popular and constantly on UK Gold.
Being averse to boring sex scenes, I wrote nothing that would bring a blush to the cheek of parents and teenagers watching together.
But I packed it with plenty of action, comedy and political jokes that only Irish viewers will get. Download it today and tell me how much you loved every minute of it.