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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Hype over VIP visits masks lack of real political progress

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

What is it about VIP visits to Northern Ireland that cause us to totally lose the run of ourselves?

Well not so much the ordinary punter, more the political and media establishment. Voices of sanity were few and far between when the Queen was in town last week.

Her visit was hyped out of all recognition and outlandish claim after claim was made about its significance.

The same happened when President Obama dropped by last summer, and heaven help us if the Pope ever pops in.

Irritating clichés such as the 'feel good factor', 'priceless PR' and 'putting Belfast on the map' will once more be trotted out.

If they were true, that would be different. But they don't hold up to any sort of scrutiny. They're just silliness on stilts.

The Queen was shown around Crumlin Road jail by two men who have virtually no working relationship and struggle to exchange a friendly word to each other.

The parties they lead at Stormont are light years away from reaching agreement on flags, parades and the past. Their inability to broker a deal on welfare reform is costing us millions every month.

Just up the road from where Peter, Martin and Her Majesty took their stroll, all hell is scheduled to break out in a fortnight's time in Ardoyne when others attempt their own walk.

The elevation of VIP visits has become a fig leaf to mask our lack of real political progress.

We may be strong on symbolism in this part of the world but we're still shamefully weak on substance.

The circus of choreography and spin surrounding these visits is in stark contrast to the gritty reality on the ground.

Last year, Obama delivered his out-of-touch inanities on the very day work started on a new peace wall in north Belfast.

At least the Queen's speech-writers didn't mess up. Obama talked about families crowding into pubs in the Cathedral Quarter as traders there complained of a lack of business.

Ultimately, hyperbole gets us nowhere. Presidents, popes and royalty must of course be welcomed as people see fit. But next time, spare us the frenzy of falseness about what it all means.

June 30, 2014
________________

This article appeared in the June 29, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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