Relations between Ireland and Britain have never been better say political leaders on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The queen, after her hugely successful visit to the Republic last year would endorse this view.
Nevertheless, being Irish and living in Britain, which has always posed challenges, is again showing signs that all is not completely rosy in the English garden.
Last weekend, right wing groups attempted to disrupt a parade by Irish and British labor groups commemorating the great Irish labor leader James Larkin, who was actually born in Liverpool, a city sometimes only half jokingly referred to as “the real capital of Ireland.
And on the eve of the London Olympics, British athletics hero Daley Thompson, a two-time gold medal winner in the decathlon, has raised a storm after throwing out, on a TV show, a version of that last line of defense employed by second rate comedians, the Irish joke.
The BBC was forced into making an apology after Thompson, who had been tipped to light the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony on Friday, commented that a tattooist who misspelled the word “Olympics” must have been Irish.
Thompson’s jibe sparked complaints from viewers of the show.
According to a report in the Irish Independent: “While on air, Thompson was shown an image of a torch runner with the words ‘Oylmpic torch bearer,’ tattooed on her arm, to which he said the person responsible for the misspelling must be Irish.”
Two of the show’s presenters apologized for the remark. However, in an effort to drive home the point last night, the broadcaster issued a formal response, the report stated.
“Daley’s comments about this were clearly meant as a joke but we apologize if any offence was caused, it certainly wasn’t our intention,” the BBC said in a statement.
On a less humorous note by any definition, 26 people were arrested in Liverpool last Saturday after extreme right wing groups attempted to stop the parade commemorating Larkin, who, during his campaigning in the U.S in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, spent three years locked up in New York’s Sing Sing penitentiary.
What was billed as anti-racism and fascism march was organized by the James Larkin Society and was led by the Liverpool Irish Patriots Republican Flute Band.
The right wing groups had claimed that the march was in support of the IRA, something that organizers vigorously denied.
Reported the Irish Times: “The James Larkin Society march – an annual event in Liverpool – was given permission by Liverpool City Council, who accepted that it was being held under a broad social justice theme and with the support of Merseyside Trade Union Congress Police.
Merseyside Police, who made the 26 arrests, three of them women, said the procession had “passed with limited disruption” and the few individuals intent on disrupting the march were dealt with swiftly by officers.
Added the Times report: “The need for a safe passage for the march was regarded as a priority by the police, who were taken by surprise last February when far-right protesters did stop a Republican march run by Cairde na hÉireann from making its way to the city center.”
Prior to the march and protest, Brian Whelan, writing in the London-published Irish Post reported: “Thousands of Irish people have emigrated to England over the last three years. They’ve arrived in the country with over 600,000 Irish born citizens, but are quite often completely unaware of the difficulties past generations faced moving here.
“Occasionally you may notice the signs of a previous tension; a total stranger might approach you in the pub upon hearing your accent to let you know their relative was killed while serving in the North, as if you were to blame or should apologize.”