The symbolism and the irony were striking. This was the day which Irish people gathered in their thousands, probably over one hundred thousand of them, to commemorate the rebellion which Northern Irish unionists saw and resisted as the violent harbinger of Rome Rule on the island of Ireland.
Nevertheless, as Irish Catholics searched through their native broadcast channels for a transmission of the Easter message Rome’s ruler, Pope Francis, to the city and the world, Urbi et orbi, they failed to find one. The message was ignored by the Irish broadcast media this morning. Anyone who wanted to see and hear it had to go to the Internet service provided by that quintessential British medium, the Daily Telegraph.
If the aspirations of those men and women in 1916 was at heart Catholic – and for not a few of them it was an important part of the mix in their hot heads – it has surely now proved to be an abysmally fruitless one. The policy decisions of Ireland’s broadcast media certainly seem to underline the apostate stance now being vaunted by Ireland’s establishment. If the hearts and minds of the Irish people are not quite there yet we cannot say. But if they are not it is no fault of the country’s mainstream media and the sheepish political class which dances to their tune.
On Irish television this evening, at a prime viewing time for young and old, one of Ireland’s national television channels is broadcasting a film called The Queen of Ireland, a transvestite romp fronted by the sometimes-man-sometimes-woman, Rory O’Neil a.k.a. Panti Bliss. Another Irish television channel broadcast its post gay marriage referendum analysis/celebration programme from his/her gay bar in the centre of Dublin last year. This is the face of Ireland’s insurrection one hundred years on. It cannot be said for sure that everyone celebrating on the streets this weekend knows that this may be what is being celebrated. But it is certainly at the heart of the ambivalence of some about the whole elaborate event.
Up north in the six counties of Northern Ireland, faithful Protestant Christians look on and wonder how their forebears go it so wrong. Either way, they are probably thinking, we are better off not to be associated with that lot. They are thankful that they kept their allegiance to a jurisdiction which is tolerant and happy to provide as fair a service as it can to all its citizens – in broadcasting and in other fields . Meanwhile, Catholics in the res publica which comprises the rest of the island wonder, quietly, if they got a bit of a raw deal 100 years ago.
Given their experience this morning, as they searched through their native broadcast channels for the message of peace from the Vicar of Christ in Rome, maybe there weren’t many other conclusions they could come to?