Somewhere in his writing, that great Irishman George Bernard Shaw says that the Irishman, faced with a group of expectant English people, tends to play the fool. I thought of Shaw this morning when I heard that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when she visits the twenty-six counties next week, will be entertained by Riverdance and Westlife.
With the help of two big gins I can usually get myself to tap one foot in half-hearted time to these groups, but that’s it. Maybe it’s because I don’t like the way Westlife, an Irish group, sing in an American accent. Maybe it’s the way Riverdance have turned Irish dancing into a thigh-pumping line of Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. But hey. Westlife and Riverdance have made mountains of money over the years and you don’t do that by refusing to amuse a visiting monarch.
Or president. There was an occasion back in the 1980s, when President Ronnie Regan visited Ireland and my old music classmate Phil Coulter was scheduled to play for him. Alas, when Phil arrived at the Munster castle where Ronnie was staying, the bodyguards who had never heard of him turned him away. No music today, thanks. A cruel friend commented that Phil had sold his soul for a mess of pottage and then didn’t even get his pottage.
It’s the old dilemma, isn’t it? Do you try to live your life by standards of self-respect or, confronted by power/the English/the Americans, do you grab the chance to make money/further your career? The south’s bankers and developers made their choice; next week Riverdance and Westlife will make theirs.