What is says in the papers

God, I’m dreading tomorrow’s papers.

Usually at this time on a Saturday night I’ll be watching the Twitter feed of Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times in Ireland, who performs the invaluable social service of tweeting the main stories from all of tomorrow’s papers as soon as they hit the newsstands.

I reckon he can probably take the night off tonight.

Tomorrow’s papers will, unless the Rapture arrives in the next few minutes, be about Garret, Leinster and the Queen.

Whereas I’m looking forward to reading about the first two, I’m not sure I can stomach another millisecond of the gormless cheerleading about herself across the water that has dominated the media in Ireland this week.

This was the week when Newstalk’s “news without the state-run spin” tagline became laughably redundant, as commentator after commentator read long and loud from the government script.

RTE broadcast hour after hour of uncritical commentary of her visit, beating us soundly over the head with about how “unprecedented” it was, and how “successful” it all was.

Our new government also took the opportunity to declare how the visit had drastically improved Ireland’s image abroad, despite the fact that it was roundly ignored outside of the British Isles; indeed, here in Sweden any mention of it also included the “viable explosive devices” found on the day of her arrival. Great for the image, I’m sure you’ll agree.

But rather than heralding a new era in Anglo-Irish relations (we’ve had good relations for twenty years or more now), the only thing that has really changed is the attitude of many people towards the Queen herself.

Skips quickly filled with Wolfe Tones tapes and Proclamation posters as the Irish people discovered they really liked her after all.

A lot of people were genuinely astounded at her warmth, her ability to deliver a speech (including a few words in the local language) and the fact that she was generally reasonably amiable.

Why people would be surprised that a woman who has been doing the job – and it is a job – for nearly sixty years might actually turn out to be good at it is beyond me.

But beyond the platitudes and the thundering media back-slapping, nothing has changed; all the visit of the Queen has done is cement the fact that Ireland and the Irish people don’t do accountability.

Because rather than apologise for the actions of her country in ours (which she was never going to do, and is probably why they sent her), this unelected head of state spoke of her “sympathy” for those affected.

It was as if one eight-minute speech was enough to close the book on the North and move on. Those interned without trial, or the families of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, might respectfully disagree.

Anyone not prepared to forgive and forget this week is labelled backward, a bigot or a crank, lumped in with the morons in Manchester United shirts throwing rocks at the police and failing to burn the Union Jack.

In short, a person accountable to no-one has essentially told us that no-one will be held accountable for anything, but it’s all alright because we are friends now. And we applauded her loudly for it, because that is what we do.

That is why Charles Haughey died a free man, never called to account for his actions – or his accounts – before a court. That is why Mountjoy is filled with the working-class poor while no banker nor politician has been charged with bankrupting our country.

That is why Michael Lowry still gets votes, and why Bertie Ahern gets away with telling us that his income comes from the gee-gees. That is why we remain a laughing stock, not least to ourselves.

As he is laid to rest, it is worth remembering that Garret Fitzgerald was one of the few politicians – some would say the only – who was held to account for his time in office; not only that, he also held himself to account.

His government had to administer some deeply unpopular economic medicine, and the voters extracted their revenge at the ballot box. His party was hammered at the polls, and he resigned as party leader.

It’s worth keeping that in mind this Sunday morning as the hacks have one last outpouring of superlatives over an old woman who cannot be touched and who can only be spoken to if she speaks first.

And as you read their gushing, unblinking praise and listen to the back-slapping on the morning radio shows, ask yourself why they are not doing what it is we expect them to do – why are they not asking critical questions of people in power? Why do they never manage to hold anyone to account?

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