Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Why Megxit and the return of Stormont have more in common than you'd imagine

With selfish demands and a sense of entitlement, Harry and Meghan are just like the Executive, says Fionola Meredith

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping back from their roles as senior royals
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping back from their roles as senior royals
Fionola Meredith

Fionola Meredith

This week it's been all about a dysfunctional bunch of over-privileged people, many of little discernible talent but who frequently act as though they're the centre of the universe, finally getting together to sort out their largely self-created problems.

No, I'm not talking about the return of Stormont.

It's Megxit - the abrupt departure of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and the subsequent royal showdown at Sandringham - that really has everyone agog.

As we all know, Arlene and Michelle's reconciliation, on a predictable wave of promised government cash - because nothing gets done here without that, it's like plugging a wailing baby's mouth with a giant gob-stopper - will merely mean more of the same petty sectarian squabbling and bad-tempered, undemocratic financial carve-ups.

Rictus grins all round, but nothing new to see here.

Yet whether you're a royalist or not, and I'm definitely not, the Harry and Meghan bombshell is fascinating because it is genuinely new and has all the elements of a real-life soap opera set among the toffiest of the toffs.

Forget The Crown. This is hot, fresh drama played out before our eyes. What's not to like?

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Weirdly, it's been noted that reaction to Megxit is divided up along largely Brexit lines, with Remainers taking the side of the poor, beleaguered duchess, driven from the country by monstrous racism.

It's perplexing that so many professed anti-monarchists and social justice warriors support these enormously privileged people now that they have decided to step back from their roles as senior royals while still trading on their royal status. Where's the equality and social justice in that?

Leavers, meanwhile, tend to believe that Meghan and Harry, aka the King and Queen of Woke, have selfishly abdicated their duty to the crown and the nation - and insulted the Queen to boot.

Look, there's no doubt that the Duchess of Sussex has suffered vile racist abuse on social media and more subtle digs in sections of the mainstream media, which may be related to her ethnicity.

I also agree with her husband that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, a repugnant attitude which often manifests itself as suspicion of someone perceived as an outsider.

But there's been plenty of legitimate criticism of the couple too. What levels of delusional hypocrisy do you need to have to lecture the plebby, Ryanair-flying masses about climate change then take four private jet journeys in 11 days?

Now they plan to divide their time between the UK and North America, and unless they commute by transatlantic ferry, that's going to rack up more flatulent CO2 tonnage than even their great pal Sir Elton John could manage to offset.

During their recent tour of Africa, it was cringe-making to hear them complain about the awfulness of their lives against a backdrop of extreme poverty and violence.

Then there was the £2.4million of our money which H and M used to lavishly renovate Frogmore 'Cottage', as the substantial Grade II listed property in the grounds of Windsor Castle is laughingly known.

Now it's going to be a kind of holiday home for the Sussexes when they deign to spend a little time in the country which coughs up squillions to pay for them.

Yes, yes, I know the couple have said that they intend to "work to become financially independent", but even if the Queen and Prince Charles cut them off without a bean - a highly unlikely scenario - no doubt we'll still be footing the bill for their enormous security costs.

If Harry and Meghan had decided to simply snip the royal purse strings and walk away, I would have applauded them for it. That would have been the honourable thing to do, to use a word that Harry's disgraced uncle Andrew is rather fond of.

A reduced monarchy, with far fewer aristocratic hangers-on hoovering up cash that could be spent on, say, health or homelessness, would be an excellent thing for the country, in my view.

But that's not what's happening here. The couple want to have their enormous cake and keep eating it too. They want all the riches, power and influence, and none of the press scrutiny or public criticism.

They wish to trade on their elevated status, yet avoid accountability to the people who pay for their upkeep.

With self-obsessed myopia, all they can see is their own demands, with little or no concern for others around them. It's ourselves alone, royal-style.

Come to think of it, that's exactly like our political leaders in the resurrected Northern Ireland Assembly.

At Stormont, the diamond tiaras may be missing, but the blinkered self-indulgence is the same.

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