The Royal Visit: a worthwhile diplomatic exercise or pointless pageantry?

Aine O'Boyle

William and Kate waving, while holding their two youngest children

As the uncertainty of Brexit looms over the Irish political and economic landscape, there could be no better time for a royal visit than now to ease ever-building tensions. 

Having been glued to all three seasons of “The Crown”, elements of the royal visit to Ireland draw one back to Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Ghana in 1961 during the height of cold-war tensions, in which she decided to take a more proactive role in dealing with the former colony by a dazzling political leader, Kwame Nkrumah, by dancing the foxtrot with him. 

This example serves to remind us that the monarchy can often be used to dazzle and distract us from the real issues at hand, this being the uncertainty of Brexit in an Irish context. 

The role of the monarchy within modern society is largely ceremonial, and despite the beautiful Kate and well-spoken William coming to Ireland with the best possible intentions, it will inevitably amount to little more than a display of pointless pageantry, with no real implications on improving discourse between Ireland and the UK. 

Despite the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge being well-received and getting stuck into various aspects of Irish culture, from football to hurling, and pouring the perfect pint of Guinness, the visit itself felt far from natural. 

Rather than feeling like old friends coming over to catch up, the visit felt more akin to being forced to visit your estranged cousin that you rarely ever go and see. 

The underlying theme of the visit is Brexit uncertainty, but this subject was more so danced around rather than being directly confronted. 

The royals noted on several occasions the “special relationship” that is shared between Ireland and the UK. William referring to it by saying: “We value it as we do your friendship and are committed to strengthening it further.” 

It seems to me that this “special relationship” hints towards the ties Ireland has with the UK as a former colony, and while it may be appreciated that this relationship is becoming more amicable as the years move on, diplomatic exercises such as this will do little to heal the wounds that Ireland once suffered at the hands of the UK. 

Although no one can deny that the royal family engages in important work, and is actually very valued by many people regardless of what side of the Irish border they live on, their place within the modern world is drawn into question. 

Regardless of one’s views on the royal family, they remain to be a representation of the imperialist Britain of the past that sought colonies all across the world and destroyed thousands of lives and livelihoods on this quest. 

While it is a positive thing for Anglo-Irish relations that the royal couple can come to Ireland on a peaceful trip seeking to strengthen the bond between us and the UK, it amounts to little more than a pointless spectacle with no real implications for the existing relationship between our two nations.

By Aine O’Boyle

Image Credit: Flickr