All the great war correspondents speak of a feeling of being outside the action when reporting. They see the death and destruction, but they are emotionless in the face of it. It is only long afterward the battle is over that they allow themselves to process what they saw on a human level.
There are very few great, emotionless reporters covering the queen’s visit.
Ryan Turbidy’s Twitter feed yesterday morning was unblinkingly positive towards it, as was Pat Kenny’s radio show this morning. Brian Dobson’s presentation of the start of the visit was coolly professional, but oddly lacking in depth as Mary Kenny waffled pointlessly about colours and hats.
On the political front, it appears they all have a day off- both Enda Kenny and William Hague have made the unchallenged assertion that “the vast majority of Irish people welcome the visit”. I’m not sure how they would know this, as the vast majority of Irish people are being presented from witnessing it.
No matter where you looked this morning, commentators were breathlessly intoning a new era in Anglo-Irish relations, and patting us all on the back for our maturity. Which of course is rubbish.
The ordinary people of Ireland and Great Britain made their peace with each other a long, long time ago; some would say they never had a problem with each other at all.
For Irish people have lived in Britain for hundreds of years and been that nation’s trading partner since trade began. Our streets are full of her shops and brands. Our language is theirs and even those who protest at the queen’s presence wear the shirts of football clubs from her country.
What the British couldn’t do by force, they did by commerce; we remain a colony in all but name. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it is simply our legacy. We have thankfully long moved on from the days of firebombs in British Home Stores on O’Connell Street.
The absence of the Irish people from the Queen’s visit is about the most symbolic aspect of all, because this visit is not for them. This visit is for the politicians and the diplomats who were busy talking themselves into knots for the last century and getting nowhere- while the rest of the people, Irish and British alike, were just getting on with things as best we could.
But to the reporters in the field, this is something much, much more important, mostly because of their own involvement in it. Again, modern media has become the beast that gorges on itself as it seeks to become the story, rather than report it.
It’s no wonder people get confused.