Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

DISAPPOINTMENT AT Queen Elizabeth’s absence from the Armagh event ‘marking’ the centenary of partition and the northern state would have been most keenly felt at the Irish Times. Its editorial team fought a Canute-like battle in the days leading up to the event to reverse the tide of public opinion behind President Higgins’s boycott of the service.

Then, Buck House, suddenly and with studied vagueness, announced that herself had “reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days”.

Who knew the Queen was so ill or with what condition, other than that it was not covid that had struck her down? The result was that the Irish government and the IT now look more imperial and Unionist than even the British queen and were left stranded at Armagh with their political antennae in their hands.

Last Saturday saw the IT’s political editor, Pat Leahy devote his weekly column to deriding the ignorant and wilful masses that followed the President’s lead on the event (see the current edition of  The Phoenix). In the same edition Breda O’Brien referred to Higgins’s “extraordinary … fumbled refusal” to attend at Armagh.

On Monday Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell, sermonised in an IT op-ed column about the marking of partition under the headline, “Armagh service is part of journey to reconciliation”. On Tuesday McDowell’s Catholic equivalent, Dr Eamon Martin, wrote another op-ed column in the paper of record head lined, “Why I am taking part in service to mark partition” in a hopeless damage limitation exercise that will not have impressed his flock north or south of the border.

The same edition of the IT also carried a report effectively repeating the content of that day’s column by Martin — to be sure, to be sure —outlining his rationalisation for celebrating the sectarian, anti-Catholic northern statelet.

There are few, if any informed commentators who believe the Queen of England has been struck down by the Black Death or any other debilitating condition. If it were simply a medical matter then why was another member of the Royal family not delegated to take her place? One would not expect Andrew, to substitute for her but Prince Charles regularly does so and has visited Ireland before.

Did Liz realise that the entire event was top heavy already with British /Unionist/pro-Unionist personages and that neither the President of Ireland nor the largest party in Ireland north and south — Sinn Féin — were going to be in attendance? Her own presence would have only underlined this imbalance.

In other words, the Queen paid more attention to sensitivities and is possessed of more acumen about such matters in the north than either the coalition government or the Irish Times.