John Walsh: Why the Queen will be among friends

Share
Related Topics

The organisers of the Queen's visit to Ireland next month won't be getting any medals for tact. Were they right to prepare an itinerary that takes Her Maj into Dublin's Garden of Remembrance with its beautiful statue of falling soldiers and ascending wild geese commemorating those who died for Irish freedom; then takes her down O'Connell Street, past the GPO where the Easter Rising began in 1916, and on to Croke Park stadium where British soldiers fired on a football crowd in 1921?

Which genius decided to start the visit on 17 May, the anniversary of the loyalist car bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, in which the British security forces allegedly colluded and for which no one was ever charged? Is somebody asking for trouble?

Sad to say, almost any date in the calendar could reverberate with significance for Ireland's past troubles with her neighbour in the 100 years since George V came for a few days in 1911. Factor in the Republic's neutrality during the war, 30 years of an implacable republican force which bombed, maimed and knee-capped English targets for 30 years (blowing up the Queen's relative Lord Mountbatten in the process) and were locked up as terrorists, not to mention the steam that's again issuing in alarming clouds from the Ulster pressure cooker, and yes, there's a real possibility the past might invade the royal visit and spoil the fun. The elephant in the room? Please. This is the great hairy mastodon standing right there on the red carpet.

But maybe they're right to send the Queen into these sensitive territories. The Irish, for all their long memories and historical grudges, are sentimental about people. They can hate a nation, but forgive individuals. They'll look at the Queen and see, not the accursed head of a tyrannical colonial power, but an 85-year-old granny, out without her shawl, who deserves respect and sympathy for her wayward and idiotic family.

Famously good at hospitality, they'll be pleased she has come visiting, and will press cups of tea on her like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. They'll probably welcome a chance to regret the past together and consign it to history. And I suggest the best way to do that would be a trip to Midleton.

Midleton is a town in County Cork. It probably doesn't have much direct link with Kate's family, but it's vividly emblematic of England's and Ireland's past. Both countries' fortunes intertwine there. It was given its charter as a market and postal town by Charles II. A few reigns earlier, Sir Walter Raleigh lived there. When he brought potatoes from the New World, he planted the first ones in nearby Youghal.

Imagine it – Sir Walter Raleigh gave the Irish potatoes! The first Speaker of the Irish House of Commons was Viscount Midleton. The Midleton Distillery makes Jameson and Paddy, the two best-selling Irish whiskeys. Two of the houses in town were designed by Augustus Pugin, the architect behind the English House of Commons. And at the top of the main street there's a memorial to 16 members of the old IRA, killed fighting the British Army in 1921.

There's so much entwined history, so much conflict and harmony, in this town with the newly resonant name. It stands as a symbol of old oppressions and new beginnings, before which we can shake our heads over the folly of past bloodshed before going for a drink and a singsong in McDaid's Bar. Can't we? As an Irish comedian Eric Lalor said the other day, "I think we've matured as a nation. We're kind of over the whole English-Irish thing. I mean, what's 800 years of oppression between friends?"

But what if my dog is against the monarchy?

My colleague Susie Rushton has been keeping an eye on rubbish royal nuptials paraphernalia in her column. I have a contribution. A company called Here For a Day assures me, "Now your dog can watch the Royal Wedding," and thoughtfully sends a picture of a Union Jack Dog Bed featuring an attractive lurcher reclining on a cushion. The Union Jack, by the way, is by something called Danish Designs. I absolutely give up.

My son's treatment shows the wonders of the NHS

Last week one of my children went into a hospital for a minor op, and I got a close look at the workings of the NHS. It was called the Princess Royal Hospital, having somehow escaped being called a "primary care trust." I used to complain about the folly of renaming medical buildings – but then I checked out the Princess Royal online and discovered that it started life as the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum. You can, I suppose, take plain speaking too far.

My son was in a small, light and rather pleasant room with five other geezers. I remember when I was in hospital at his age, lying in an endlessly long and gloomy room, apparently designed by Tim Burton with dark, cobwebby shadows and 20 Gothic-Victorian beds with brass knobs and claw feet, where the prevailing smell was of festering lilies, tomato soup and other people's bottoms, and the nursing staff looked pale and upset and seldom came near you.

In the Princess Royal, you're never short of company. First the anaesthetist, then the surgeon came by to talk Max through what was about to happen to him, then the sister came for a motherly chat, then the Malaysian nurse (who was about my son's age) popped by for some teen banter. The beef stew with dumplings wouldn't have left Torode and Wallace gob-smacked, but was more than bearable. The doctors performed the op, kept Max around for observation, then breezily dismissed him with the words, "There's nothing inside you that interests us at all, I'm glad to say."

It was a weirdly jolly experience. On the way out, I noticed how many visitors took the option of anointing their skin with disinfectant gel. They walked along the corridors, rubbing their hands together as if anticipating a treat. I think we'd like to keep the NHS just as it is.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions