Printing deadlines can make a fool of anyone. Events have a habit of happening but let’s assume that the rest of the Queen’s visit here has been incident free.
Not that there aren’t risks associated with some of her proposed ports of call. Many’s the midday visit to the Guinness Storehouse that has turned into a ten-hour pub-crawl culminating in a prolonged discussion with a busker in Temple Bar about what a genius Rory Gallagher was.
Croke Park has been a troubled place for English teams in recent years. But the historic victory of London’s hurlers in the Nicky Rackard Cup in 2005 is believed to have played a huge part in its inclusion on Her Majesty’s intinerary.
On Thursday we show off our new motorways….“And if Ma’am would care to look out her window she will see a landscape unspoiled by any service stations. Finbarr I’m stopping in a minute. Can you get the drum of diesel out of the boot, we’re running a bit low.”
And today, all going well, she arrives in Cork to visit the English Market – which has been renamed the Fierce English Market Altogether in her honour.
Queen Elizabeth’s time here is laden with symbolism. It was particularly touching to see her use a 4X4 in her transport around Dublin on her first day. In a very tactful and diplomatic way, she is paying tribute, with her Jeep, to the our 4X4 glory years when everyone was either a builder or dropping the children the 400 yards to school.
The ceremony in the Garden of Remembrance was an incredible moment. For a reigning monarch to explicitly honour those who fought against the Crown is a big step in the collective histories of our two countries and will in turn lead to many positive repercussions for Ireland.
And it had an immediate positive effect in the adjoining areas. The presence of 250,000 guards meant that O’Connell Street had less opiate addicts on it than at any point in its recent history.
It’s an interesting experience walking around a city in security lockdown. After a while, a number of distinct groups start to emerge. There are people who are genuinely discomoded by the diversions. They need to be somewhere on the other side of ‘that railing’ and now they need to walk about a mile out of their way. Then there are people who are clearly walking out of their way in order to be blocked so that they can shake their heads and tut in an exasperated way.
Finally there are the potential rioters. You spot them immediately because they are carrying six-packs of beer. Drinking before a riot is an essential part of the process of getting your ideological game on. As they start to get ‘highdeological’, they are walking in groups with scarves on their faces and trouser legs tucked into their runners. Irish rioters have no concept of how to operate undercover. Their heads dart in all directions like meerkats – if meerkats wore tracksuits.
It’s now about half past two. At this time the queen is tucking into lunch in the Aras, wondering whether to have another bun and possibly considering the logistics of smuggling a spare one into her handbag.
I’m on O’Connell Street near the Spire. It’s relatively quiet here. Just a few streets away, rioters in Manchester United shirts are protesting about the undue reverence being paid to an English institution on Irish soil.
There is another demonstration by a small group from Éirigi who are ironically trying to stage a sit-down protest. Éirigi became Suígí but have now been told to Seasaigí and FeckOff-igí .
The atmosphere is a little tense but leavened by ‘banter’ between the guards and some of Dublin’s finest residents.
“Officer!” shouts out ‘Ste-o’ to one guard. “Officer! Do I have permission to sing a song?” “Only if you’re a good singer” replies the guard. The crowd wait with interest. What will Steo sing? His use of the word ‘officer’ suggests he might be opening up with that favourite from West Side Story, ‘Officer Krupke’.
“Come out ye black and tans, come and fight me like a man and na-na-na-na-na Flaaaanders.” The song peters out. Steo has mislaid the words and gets no help from the Brazilians next to him.
“Is there no Irish man will help me sing this song – wat’s the matter wit yiz?”
“Shurrup” says his girlfriend. “No wonder yer always gettin’ arrested”. She’s more of a ‘diffident republican’.
Steo is more ‘on the money’ with his next comment. “Officer, do you know you’re the spit of Ray D’arcy.” It’s true. The Sergeant guarding our area does look like the man who once DJed at a Ray D’arcy Disco in Coachford.
This revelation seems to dull some of the gloss of quiet authority the Sergeant had and he withdraws from barrier duty to be replaced by another guard who doesn’t look like anyone famous.
The day is dragging along. Helicopters hover overhead in an attempt to heighten the dramatic tension but the sparse crowd is getting restive. Queen Elizabeth is taking her time. Next to me at the barriers, Amanda and Katelin are having a day of mixed emotions. “What is keepin’ dis woman? She is bleedin seriously ripping the piss now n’ anyways. She’s wreckin me buzz.”
I picture the Queen and her entourage at the Aras getting ready to leave. An official whispers to her. “It’s time your majesty.” She smiles mischievously.“I shall wait five minutes. I do enjoy wrecking Amanda’s buzz.”
As it turns out, the Queen’s visit was not the only thing on Amanda and Katelin’s mind that day and I am lucky enough to hear them discuss the entire drama. Turns-out-rui-wait-till-I-tell-ya-rui-OMG-Lindsay-rang-rui-cos-Deco’s-after-ringing-hur-in-anyways-and-wants-to know-if what-she’s-after-sayin-about-what-he-said-the-udder-nigh-after-what-Anto-said-about-what-him-catchin-Jennifer-and-Dean-near-de-Topaz-OMG!!!I-don’t-believe-ih-dis-is-Anto-ringin-me-now-hang-on-Ah-Shi’he-That-Was-Hur-in-the-Jeep-Hang-On-Anto-I’ll-call-ye-back-arui-bye-bye-bye-bye-bye
“I can’t believe i missed her after all that”
They didn’t miss much. An entourage sped up O’Connell Street. Queen Elizabeth gave a little wave out the window and then she was gone. Along with others in the crowd, I drift away. I need a rest. Visitors can be tiring.