Friday 24 November 2017

Escaping to an Emerald island in a sea of jubilee celebrations

Graham Clifford

God save the fixtures committee in Croke Park. This Sunday, in the teeth of jubilee mania, thousands of Irish will flock to Ruislip for the Connacht senior football championship clash between London and Leitrim.

Many may pay at the gate just to escape the red, white and blue barrage. Inside they can draw breath safe in the knowledge that this is a street-party free zone.

The Emerald grounds in Ruislip can be bleak on rainy weekends in winter but on Sunday, and indeed on Saturday when the Exiles' hurlers host Down in the Christy Ring cup, it will be a cherished enclave for the fleeing Gaels.

Nestled between the Royal Wedding and the upcoming Olympics, the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne is being celebrated with gusto without any questions being raised about how much the festivities will cost the taxpayer or if the royalty serves any purpose other than to attract snap-happy tourists.

On my street, west of London, the neighbours are going batty over Liz's big day. Most houses have union jacks flying outside, homes are decorated in the national colours and there are even red, white and blue flowers blooming in some gardens.

The hilarious thing is that the 86-year-old monarch was loathed after the death and funeral of Princess Diana. When Camilla married the calamitous Prince Charles her star continued to fall. But a film about her starring Helen Mirren saw her stock rise in 2006 and then the marriage of her grandson to the pretty Kate Middleton put the royal family back in business.

Tragically I'll miss Sunday's street party as I'll be watching the two Connacht minnows going toe-to-toe. I've never been so grateful to the GAA for providing me with a water-tight get-out clause.

I'll miss the singing of 'God Save the Queen', dedicating a toast to her nibs and watching Morris dancing. The entire schedule for the day was posted through our door last week and we were told to pay £3 to the organiser at number 42 -- it wasn't optional.

If the British want to be patriotic fair play to them, but the reason for this celebration is a little disturbing. The Royal Highness has done a wonderful job as we're told, has she?

Granted she played a blinder on her trip to Ireland last year, even giving us the cupla focal, but what important function does she, or any of her relations for that matter, really have?

Opinions

As school children up and down Britain spend hours making bunting for this weekend's celebrations I wonder how many are encouraged to form their own opinions about the royalty? Very few I'm sure. They're taught that the Queen is untouchable and that the royalty is an intrinsic part of British society -- question the need for its existence? Don't be daft! Even the mainstream media refuse to do that.

In my neighbourhood an English republican is treated with almost as much disdain as an Irish one. Recent polls suggest that less than a fifth of the Queen's subjects in the UK say they want to get rid of the royal family. But how, in 2012, can a liberal democracy justify power and privilege based on an accident of birth?

The British pressure group Republic, which has 21,000 members and a tag line of 'Campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy' is expecting thousands to attend a public protest on Sunday.

The demonstration will be in full view of the royal barge as the queen and other royals disembark to watch the pageant pass through Tower Bridge. One of the placards on display will ask '9,560 Nurses or one Queen?' highlighting how public money could be better-spent if the monarchy were scrapped.

Meanwhile, up the road in North London we'll be watching lovely Leitrim as they try to escape from London with a precious victory.

But if the Exiles can pull off the win the queen herself might interrupt her celebrations to join in with the Exiles.

Then again, one might not be amused to be up-staged on one's big day.

Irish Independent

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