Cui bono has served us well over the generations. Who benefits? Follow the money. But sometimes, the better test is to ask who’ll be most annoyed by something, and as far as I can see, the Presidential visit has enraged all the right people.
The Famine-loving 800-years-of-oppression sub-sect of the Irish-American diaspora are hopping mad. They simply cannot bring themselves to accept that maybe there’s a better way to solve the age-old problems between Britain and Ireland, but more tellingly, the mask has slipped. They can’t accept that the indigenous Irish people have spoken, and I suppose that’s for obvious reasons. If they’re not centre-stage-Irishmen, then who exactly are they?
What is their relevance to the daily lives of people on this island?
It raises an interesting question — why is it good to be Irish-American, but deeply wrong to be Irish-British?
And if it’s good to kick the Brits out of our ancestral lands, what are these patriotic Americans going to do about the occupation of, for instance, the Sioux lands? After all, this dispossession was carried out little more than a century ago, while the Ulster Protestants have been there for almost 400 years.
It’s not so long since General Philip Sheridan, a son of Cavan immigrants to New York, conducted a mass slaughter of the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche and Sioux.
Are we talking double standards? Surely not, among such principled, right-thinking people as the Irish-American lobby. What are we to do with all the Ulster Protestants — kill them? Force them into a republic they don’t wish to be part of? Send them back where they came from, as the Croats did to the Krajina Serbs in 1995, in a huge act of ethnic cleansing? Or will we face up to the reality that, much though we might consider the deeds of the 17th century despicable, this is the 21st century and we need 21st century solutions?
I don’t like the posturing of Ulster loyalists any more than the next person, but in many ways, they are the ones now hanging out to dry. It’s true that their behaviour has veered between laughable and despicable. It’s true that they have been triumphalist, sometimes murderous, arrogant, overbearing, aggressive and horribly self-righteous.
But it’s also true, now that Professor Higgins has taught his Eliza to speak proper Erse, that Realpolitik is the order of the day. Forget all this guff about warmth and friendship. Countries do not have friends, though it is certainly true that the Irish and the British are far closer to each other culturally than they are to anyone else.
Even more than the Irish-Americans, the Presidential visit will have driven the Ulster Loyalist faction — as opposed to Unionist — to distraction. After all, if the monarch to whom you proclaim your loyalty is supping with the Devil and using an exceedingly short spoon, what are you to think, if you think at all? If you have any brain in your head, you’ll be asking yourself what you can achieve by prancing around the streets with flute and drum, playing the Sloop John B outside Catholic churches.
If you don’t have such a brain, you’ll be breaking out the guns, but this time, you won’t find yourself facilitated by a sectarian, politically-motivated police force. You won’t be dealing with Special Branch handlers handing over bags of money and drugs. You’ll be dealing with the full force of a state determined to grind you underfoot, and because you come from a community that has traditionally placed little value on education, you will be smashed, ruthlessly.
David Irvine realised years ago that the Ulster loyalists had been the dupes of the establishment, and he did his best to wake them up to that reality, as did Gusty Spence and Billy Hutchinson, not to mention John McMichael, but the reality is that working-class loyalism is now doomed. These people, raised by the aristocracy to serve as cannon-fodder in imperial wars and as slaves in the shipbuilding industry are now surplus to requirements and therefore disposable.
Their soul-brothers throughout Britain, on the Clyde and the Tyne, in the coalfields and the ironworks, were cut loose decades ago and when they protested, Thatcher’s mounted policemen rode them down and crushed them.
The only thing that made the loyalists different was the so-called national question, and now, finally, that issue is no longer on the agenda of the UK government.
This State visit is being widely misread, in my opinion, as an attempt to recalibrate relationships between Dublin and London. In reality, I think it’s sending out a completely different signal: the deal is done. It’s over. The charade of British support for loyalism is being abandoned in favour of a 21st century analysis of both countries’ priorities. In the long term, I think the plan is to bring about a united Ireland by virtue of planned obsolescence.
It won’t happen overnight, but a loyalism with nothing to be loyal to can have no future. When the Queen turns her back on you, who exactly are you?
What I’d very much like to know is what the quid pro quo was. What has the government promised in return for such a warm, wholehearted display of pageantry and such a firm rejection of the backwoodsmen?