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Guests of the nation: Queen Elizabeth, Obama, Ireland's history and its future

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Queen's visit to the Garden of Remembrance Source: Government Pool

The much heralded and trumpeted visits of presidents and monarchs have come and gone, and dignity fatigue has kicked in as the Irish masses are said to be on the verge of national meltdown from collective good behaviour and putting on such a brave show.

Our Taoiseach has gone on primetime TV to specially congratulate us, the people on “not bringing shame on our nation” during the queen’s visit. One Sunday paper, the likely candidate, was even peddling headlines like, “proud to be Irish, proud to be British”.

Just as the Scots are on verge of striking camp and declaring nationhood, there are some seriously flirtatious eyes being made in some media and governing circles here at a common wealth with the perilous state of the collective coffers being cited. Those regurgitating this spin would be better advised to tone down the national self congratulatory claptrap of recent days as a great majority of us in this parish intend to remain as citizens still and not subjects for a good while yet to either London or Frankfurt; but wouldn’t mind subjecting a few of the Irish lackeys to the pitch cap treatment of the previous regimes, not just those who committed national treason in undermining the finances of the state, but those who continue to facilitate their reward instead of punishment. Simulated treatment of course.

The great tradition of Irish hospitality is enshrined within the ancient brehon laws long before the tourism folk today rebranded it as the land of the céad míle fáilte, the land of one hundred thousand welcomes, a welcome they say which is to be especially experienced if you are travelling through the maze that is Dublin Airport as Shannon, the international gateway to the west and both the innovative and traditional hub for north American air traffic seems to be the round peg in their squared image.

Our sophisticated Gaelic Irish ancestors knew that hospitality was good for travel and trade. One’s wealth was judged on not what was owned but given to guests when taking on the role of host. All social classes were obliged to provide food and shelter to those that came to their doorstep. The guest was subject to the protection of the home of the host and was expected to stay clear of violence while enjoying this hospitality. Nor was it proper for a guest to offer payment in return for hospitality. That is why, no matter what stance was taken prior to the visit, once the guest was on Irish soil in either Belfast or Dublin, ( I presume removal of our constitutional claims doesn’t mean removal of personal claims too) it is wrong to seek apologies. Beforehand fine, afterwards fine, but not once hospitality is offered during the visit itself.

Yet there are those pliable souls who would misconstrue such hospitality as a sign to push other agendas. Listen boys, the IMF were also pounding on the door of the Brits back in the 70s, our present travails were largely inflicted by Anglo Irish bank; the ECB loan money that flooded the banks over the least decade had no passport, it wasn’t technically Irish loans but German investments into British property developments transacted via the intermediary of a private bank that happened to be based in Dublin. So if the Irish mountain climbers fall so do the people holding onto that rope. It is good to be neighbourly.

Regarding the state visit, the gallows humour doing the rounds in best pseudo patriotic sincerity prior to the visit was that Hello magazine was vying with An Phoblacht for photographic rights to the pending visit of Queen Betty, but An Phoblacht was insisting it had a stronger bid in that it only sought one clear shot. Despite the strong security presence in Dublin giving the black and white feel of Paris 1940, there was something moving on a purely emotive level at what should have been an unimaginable sight of the 85 year old British Queen bowing her head in front of our republican dead at the Garden of Remembrance. Words are rendered useless here.

Just two pucks of a sliothar away, down Jones Road, a new face was introduced on the national stage a couple of weeks back when Liam O’ Neill of Trumera, County Laois became the first President Elect of the Gaelic Athletic Association without having to contest an election in over 100 years. O’Neill, whose home club is not based too far from President Obama's GAA club in Moneygall, is a big cut of a Laois man from a large family of twelve, and its clear to see why not too many were willing to go toe to toe with the schoolmaster. He is a man steeped in the history of the Association, and would have appreciated some ironies in the recent UK state visit to Croke Park, as no doubt would President Mary McAleese, who carried a hurl in her hand for “insurance” purposes attending school as a child in County Down.

It would be wonderful if O’Neill’s presidency of one of the few genuinely distinct Irish beacons of the last century would coincide with a Riverdance style opening up of our national games beyond the Irish family to the world at large through Olympic recognition. This would open new support channels for our GAA units worldwide from governments that recognise olympic accreditation. That would be something to mark 1916. Instead of the cap in hand, beggarly stuff we have seen where incredibly our “leaders” and our “rich” have hammered home to us the belief that capitalism must be rejected in bad times as it is essential that socialism be adhered to in sharing the pain, we can have something instead to share in the limelight, something to doff the hat at, a reclamation, or a rebuilding of the true learned status of Ireland.

Like a great Tyrone maestro and coaching guru would say, Win the War, Fight the War. If we draw on the best of our past, we can welcome better days ahead, because we have been blessed with a great foundation and the wealth of over 5,000 years of advanced civilisation to rebuild on.

Something that can be restored stronger than ever, through the global Irish village, our heritage, our sports. Pierre de Coubertin the father of the modern Olympic movement was so inspired by the Gaelic games he witnessed almost 120 years ago that he began the great new international sporting movement and it would be fitting that by 2016, the compliment can be returned.

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