Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Ronan O’Gara’s a real lout for not giving the Queen some respect

It’s simple. Ronan O'Gara is a lout.

Either he kept his hands in his pockets when he met the Queen because he was unaware that no gentlemen ever keeps his hands in his pockets when he is meeting anyone — whether tinker, tart or toff — which means that he is a lout. Or that he went up to Belfast, freely and of his own accord, and very deliberately kept his hands in his pockets in her presence, in order to establish some political point. Which also means that he is a lout.

And those bigoted midgets who have applauded him for his bad manners have merely shown that they are louts also.

Some things are important. You do not insult the flag of another country, and you do not show disrespect for its head of state.

The English captain Martin Johnson showed such disrespect to the Irish President at Lansdowne Road by refusing to stand closer to the presidential red carpet, thereby making her walk over to him to shake his hand. Whether he did so accidentally or deliberately is irrelevant. He should have been publicly rebuked by the English Rugby Union and forced to apologise. He wasn't and he didn't. He is a lout also.

What he did was a serious breach of international protocol. But this should not have set a standard of Anglo-Hibernian bad manners to which Ronan O'Gara then uniquely adhered. (After all, no other Irish player felt the need to behave like him.)

Which means, if intentional, he went 300 miles to insult the sovereign of a friendly power. How heroic.

Which brings us to the tiresome issue, yet again, of Ireland and the British monarchy. Frankly, I am bored out of my skull with this pathetic, infantile obsession about Ireland not being British and therefore you don't invite the Queen (yes, that's deliberate) to the country.

Only nationalist dwarves accept that argument. If she can visit Germany, whose cities were laid waste in her lifetime, with tens of thousands of civilians being slaughtered in their homes by an air force whose commander in chief was her father, then she can surely visit Ireland.

This issue has all the hallmarks of a very stupid family row. We know that the vast majority of Irish people use the term ‘the Queen’ when describing the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Even Seamus Heaney wrote that in his family they never raised a glass to toast the Queen: yes, his capital letter.

The largest immigrant group in Ireland is British. For decades, the largest immigrant group in Britain was Irish. The laws of Ireland are based on English common law, and Irish barristers wear black in mourning for Queen Anne (died 1714). I could go on. So could you. This is because we all know the fundamental truths of this issue.

The culmination of next's season rugby championship will also see the 70th anniversary of the commissioning of Michael Floud Blaney, a Catholic and nationalist from Newry, and a graduate of UCD, into the Royal Engineers. He was rushed through a mine-defusing course, becoming one of the first of the new generation of bomb-disposals officers.

In September 1940, an unexploded German bomb in East London was paralysing traffic and preventing thousands of workers from doing vital war-duties.

Captain Blaney volunteered to defuse the bomb, and working alone — a method he pioneered — he succeeded.

A month later, a new type of bomb was found in London. Fitted with two very dangerous time fuses, its sole purpose was to kill bomb-disposals officers like him. However, it was causing major economic dislocation and had to be tackled.

Again he volunteered to defuse it alone. He was successful. Then, a fortnight before Christmas, just after his 30th birthday, Captain Blaney was called to deal with another bomb.

It had lain unexploded for several days, and was causing huge economic disruption. As usual he crawled unaccompanied into the crater, and while he worked on it the bomb exploded.

King George VI — the father of the woman in whose company Ronan O'Gara thought it appropriate to keep his hands in his pockets — awarded Captain Michael Floud Blaney a posthumous George Cross, the highest possible British decoration for a soldier not personally present in the face of the enemy.

As Ronan O'Gara travelled North last week to insult — either intentionally or otherwise — the Queen, he would have passed Newry Old Chapel Graveyard, where the remains of Captain Michael Floud Blaney GC are buried.

How many people now know of this gallant man in the town where he was born, and where he had once been in charge of the roads department?

Not many, I'd guess. Still, it's worth remembering that he used his hands to save life, not insult people.

The ultimate reward of the endeavours of so many Irishmen like him is also known by the name ‘freedom’, beside which two words such as ‘Grand Slam’ or ‘Ronan O’Gara’ do not properly belong.

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