Saturday, May 21, 2011
The Queen in Ireland
I am not as opposed to the Irish republic as most monarchists might be. As I have mentioned before, Irish republicanism is something that I do, at least *understand* even though I still oppose it and would prefer to see an independent Ireland become again a confederate monarchy as in the days of old. It is also specifically because of my very pro-British standpoint that I find republicanism in Ireland at least understandable and more understandable than in other areas. The reason for that being that, in terms of the historic relations between Britain and Ireland, my disappointment arises from the certain knowledge that the British rule or misrule of Ireland was the exception rather than the norm. Given all the Irish suffered over the centuries it is understandable, though no less unfortunate and unnecessary, that they should be republicans. My disappointment with some of the historical actions of Britain in Ireland arises from my certain knowledge that the British were better than that. In fact, as controversial as this may be, if Britain had governed and behaved in Ireland as they did in almost any other of their numerous colonies I doubt there would be an Irish republic today.
The reasons for this are many, complex and not worth going into at the moment. They have also been shifting, from dynastic disputes to religious bigotry to nationalism and ethnic prejudice. However, in recent years at least, it is important to make a distinction between Anglo-Irish relations and the quite separate ugly events that have plagued Northern Ireland. Just as past or present British bigotry against any and all things Irish is unjustified, so to is past or present Irish bigotry against any and all things British, especially in terms of the situation in Northern Ireland as the “British” public has long had a very different attitude than the Unionist community in Northern Ireland that most Irish have a problem with. Yet, this situation has tainted, for a long time, Anglo-Irish relations in general. In spite of the fact that, especially as concerns the monarchy, this is totally unjustified.
What about Ireland though? Has the republic moved on and let bygones be bygones? Perhaps, but it seems to me at least, that if so, certainly not to the same extent. This is, again, somewhat understandable given that in terms of Britain and Ireland it was undeniably Ireland that suffered more. However, especially given the recent visit by the Queen, there is now absolutely no hindrance to Ireland moving on and becoming a fast friend with their nearest neighbor. The opportunity is here for Ireland to put the past behind them and move on and I sincerely hope they do so. Frankly, given the itinerary of the Queen, I am surprised even the most radical republicans found anything to complain about. It seemed to me, if anything, there would have been more room for British grumblings about the Queen being *too* conciliatory in the places she went and the sites she visited.
For example, the Queen visited the Garden of Remembrance which honors all those who have fought for Irish independence from Britain, even though some of those episodes were really less than admirable enterprises. I do not say the Irish should not commemorate them, but it might be a bit much to expect the British Sovereign to honor those who were their inveterate enemies, even those whose rebellions occurred in cooperation with powers like republican France or Imperial Germany against whom Britain herself was engaged in a war for her survival at those times in history. Yet, the Queen did so, and I noticed no serious voices of complaint from Great Britain on the subject. By now, just about everyone in Europe has fought everyone else at one time or another and if everyone dwelled on every past conflict there would be little or no discourse between anyone. That, national duty, can justify such a visit. I will, however, admit to a bit of a cringe at the Queen visiting Croke Park.
I say all of this because, as I have stated before, the “victim mentality” does no good for Ireland or any other nation or individual person. Ireland will never achieve a true feeling of national equality with the UK so long as they continue to define themselves only as constant victims of British cruelty. Likewise, while Britain as any country should be ashamed of past crimes, that does not mean they need to be constantly expected to feel ashamed of themselves. For me at least, part of the reason why I so sympathize with the Irish is because British behavior in their regard was so out of the ordinary. Taken as a whole, the British Empire was not a cruel or oppressive force in the world and subject peoples were generally governed efficiently, humanely and quite often to their benefit. Britons should feel justifiable pride in the fact that the treatment of Ireland was an obvious aberration and that nations raised up by the British Empire have done comparatively better than those of any other.
The Queen was her usual flawless self on this visit and certainly seemed to impress the Irish officials, particularly when she opened her speech at dinner with a few words in Gaelic. However, that is the Queen, that is someone who is a veteran of such affairs and who has spent a lifetime gaining experience at how to hit just the right note. This visit gives both countries the opportunity to start over and for those who insist on clinging to the adversarial mentality, I think the Queen, by being so conciliatory, claimed the moral high ground on this visit. She acknowledged the failings of her own country, she honored the founders of Irish independence, in short did everything to express British support and acceptance for the Irish republic. I hope Ireland will join her on the moral high ground.
God Save the Queen and Ireland Forever!