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Queen's plaque removed: Quit pandering to imaginary fears and put the tribute back in its rightful place

By Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 27/09/2016

The Queen unveils the plaque on the platform at Bellarena Station
The Queen unveils the plaque on the platform at Bellarena Station

In June, on her most recent visit across the Irish Sea, the Queen opened a new platform at Bellarena railway station in Co Londonderry after arriving there by steam train, recreating the same journey that she first made a month after her coronation in 1953.

A plaque was erected to commemorate the occasion. Now it turns out that the plaque was removed within 24 hours of its unveiling and has still not been replaced. In fact, there's no indication when, if ever, it will be put back in place.

"What, the Queen? Queen who? Never heard of her. You must be mistaking us for a different train station. Move along now, there's nothing to see."

And that part's true enough. There is quite literally nothing to see anymore. The wall is bare.

Translink has so far struggled to explain why it played this magic vanishing trick on the plaque at the unmanned halt.

The company's initial excuse was they were worried about "the possibility that it could be vandalised".

Though vandalised by whom?

Residents of this quiet backwater have never shown a particularly marked tendency to anti-social behaviour, and visitors from further afield surely have better things to do with their time after alighting at the station than risk prosecution by getting busy with a spray can or a crow bar.

Now Translink has changed tack and states that it's "considering the best way to mount the plaque", implying somehow that they've been engaged all along in high level meetings to find the best way to show it off.

Make your minds up, lads. Which is it?

This latest statement is so patently absurd that it could only have been pulled out of a hat in an effort to solve the problems created by the first one; because the clear implication from the original explanation is that members of the wider nationalist community might have been so offended by a plaque unveiled by the Queen that they would've resorted to criminal damage of Translink property in retaliation.

They hadn't asked any of these hypothetical vandals whether they actually were offended. Nor had they been flooded with complaints by people who felt the plaque undermined their sense of identity. The decision to take down the plaque was simply made in anticipation that someone somewhere was bound to be offended, and that it was therefore better not to give them the chance. Quick, hide the plaque, before anyone notices!

The message seemed to be that people in Northern Ireland are so irrational and impulsive that they need protecting from themselves, like the Incredible Hulk. Don't make them angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.

And of course it is perfectly possible that the plaque might have been vandalised had it been left on the wall.

The world is full of idiots whose first response to something they don't like is to wreck it, and Northern Ireland has suffered more than its fair share of them. There are sections of communities on either side who arguably don't deserve the benefit of any doubt.

But that's no reason to assume there will be a problem before the problem has even arisen. Pandering to imaginary fears only encourages small-minded, thin-skinned people to complain in future, because they're being taught the value of making a fuss about matters that don't deserve it.

It's only a plaque, after all.

Just put the ruddy thing back up. If it's vandalised, take it down, repair and clean it, then put it back up again. Repeat until the idiots get the message. Translink's job is to make the trains run on time, not to tell its customers how or what to think.

Meanwhile, it'll be fun seeing what further excuses the company comes up with when they realise that the two they've concocted so far have been so silly that even the writers of Give My Head Peace would have rejected them as far-fetched.

Belfast Telegraph

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