Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

God save Queen from these rows

Does anyone ever ask the Queen if she minds having her name removed from an organisation?

I ask because this last week has seen the Programme for Government here pledge to ‘modernise and reform the prison service’, while two days earlier, the First Minister, Peter Robinson, pledged he would resign if the crown was removed from the prison service emblems and the title ‘Her Majesty’s Prisons’ was dropped.

Mr Robinson says this will not do at all and he’ll take it to the people to decide upon if needs be. So, sweeping reform is wanted, just not anything that would actually sweep or reform.

And what about the Queen herself? I fancy that if royal protocol didn’t prohibit such a showy display, the woman might fancy going on a few marches through London town, a one-woman protest, carrying a single placard with the words ‘Not In My Name!’ on it.

How many awful activities from out and out atrocities to downright bad taste, have been carried out in the name of the Queen? But she never seems to have a say in them. I’m unaware of any loyalist here ever phoning her private rooms in Buck House to check with Mrs Windsor if their intended display of loyalty to her and her head gear was actually alright with her in the first place. If she’d understood a word they were saying, I can’t imagine she’d ever have agreed with the content.

Her Majesty’s Prisons? What have they got to do with her anyway? Does she even want her name associated with such places? I can see why she might like to be connected to garden centres or dog shows or headscarf manufacturers — y’know, things she’s actually interested in, but prisons?

Oh but it’s traditional.

Oh dear, here we go again. The moving forward with both feet tied to the past approach. That’s generally known as falling flat on your face.

As the gloomy Private Frazer in Dad’s Army used to intone in his ghostly voice: “We’re doomed! Doomed!”

We certainly seem condemned here to have any progress sidetracked into the hoary old lay-by of sectarian indignation. There are certain individuals at Stormont, okay, there’s Jim Allister, who have created an art form out of finding the insult in anything progressive.

Everyone agrees that prisons here desperately need a root and branch transformation. Well, everyone who hasn’t got a vested interest in keeping things as they are, that is.

But for the debate to be de-railed or even stalled for this sadly predictable, jumping up and down sideshow of temper over a change that’s probably going to happen anyway, is at best time-wasting and at worst, cynical manipulation.

Leadership. That’s what they’re there to give. Leadership. Creating a path where none has existed heretofore. Not heading off wildly into the bushes to throw a |wobbly every time something challenging pops up.

Like the Shinners courtin’ |the girl of the Republic only to have the door slammed in their face, certain Unionists, okay, Jim Allister and the DUP, keep citing the Queen as their raison d’etre, their muse, the wind beneath |their wings. It’s 2011 lads – isn’t it time you actually asked the woman herself what SHE wants?

Brawling on the lady’s behalf |without even consulting her, went out with John Wayne and The Quiet Man. It looked dated even then. Now it looks downright ludicrous.

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