It was a strange few days....
On the Friday (15/3), Rod Stewart was a guest on RTE’s Late Late Show and much to the delight of the audience performed his version of ‘Grace’, a ballad the 74 year old rocker claims the BBC refuse to broadcast due to its ‘anti-English overtones’. The BBC categorically denies this claim.
Three days later Alan Partridge’s doppelganger, Martin Brennan, gave a raucous rendition of Dominic Behan’s bottle-banger, ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans’ on This Time with Alan Partridge. The hilarious new show commands the BBC1 Monday night primetime slot, airing at 9.30pm.
One could argue that the overtones of the latter are perhaps slightly more "anti-English" than the tale of Joseph and Grace Plunkett’s ephemeral union but with This Time viewership hovering around the three million mark it seems Auntie knows best.
It got stranger still. Last Saturday (23/3/19) former UDR corporal and current DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, accepted an invitation to address the Fine Gael National Conference in Wexford. The event came eight weeks after the centenary of the 1st Dail.
Sharing the stage with An Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD, Mr Donaldson used the opportunity to call on the Republic of Ireland to rejoin the British Commonwealth. To considerable applause Mr Donaldson, an unapologetic Brexiteer, said:
“I do hope we can come to a day when the Republic will join with many other nationals in the Commonwealth nations recognising that we have overcome a lot of adversity … the Commonwealth is a place where Ireland’s voice should be heard and I would like to see that happen....”
Afterwards Mr Coveney, possibly sensing a potential mutiny, sought out whatever media outlet he could find and did everything short of smearing his excrement on the wall to distance himself from The Right Honourable gentleman’s comments. Playing down the reaction from the rank and file on hearing Mr Donaldson’s aspirations An Tanaiste reasoned: “Fine Gael is a generous party and we want him to feel welcome...”
The actual decibel level of an bualadh bos Mr Donaldson received depends on what paper you read. But, hospitality aside, it would appear a significant portion of the party Michael Collins would have undoubtedly presided over at some point had he survived Beal na Blath believe revoking the Republic of Ireland Act of December1948 warrants serious consideration.
The ‘Big Fella’ may be turning in his grave at the prospect but this thinking isn’t a recent phenomenon. In May 2007 Bernadette McAliskey had warned of such rumblings during her address at the Eirigi commemorations in Arbour Hill marking the anniversary of James Connolly’s execution. Predicting it could become a reality by the centenary of the Free State, Mrs McAliskey lamented: “100 years and Lloyd George will have been proved correct....”
With the local and European elections scheduled for May 24th I wonder will there be any mention of this mooted diversion on the deluge of unwanted leaflets which will no doubt cascade through my letterbox over the next eight weeks?
Up to now I’ve adhered to a strict non-negotiable policy of not engaging canvassers of any hue on my doorstep. However, if I see former Rose of Tralee and current Fine Gael Midlands/North West MEP candidate Maria Walsh coming up the driveway I may be tempted to reconsider.
No doubt Ms Walsh is well versed on matters pertaining to Irish sovereignty but if she rings my doorbell extolling the virtues of British subjugation, she may find my questions slightly trickier than those Daithi O Se put to her that night in the Dome.
Strange days indeed....
➽Paul Kelly is a Tuam based writer.