Yes I am Irish but I don’t hate the queen!
The flags of Berlaymont hung low since September 8 when news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth spread around the world. The blue material with yellow stars still danced in the wind but about a third down from the top of the flagpole.
The death of the Queen was met with very mixed emotions in Brussels. The news travelled to me when I was working in the pub. At first I didn’t actually believe it as her death had been rumoured before. While customers sympathised with my Scottish colleagues, be it coincidence or cuteness, nobody actually said anything to me. Nobody ever has to ask where I am from. The minute I open my mouth my Irishness is given away. The past weekend, one woman actually asked me to keep talking with her because I reminded her of her childhood, which she spent in Ireland. A strange request but I thought it was nice all the same, so I rambled on about the storm, which was raging outside. Later I would learn that people believed this was marking the queen’s death. Not that I’m one to believe that the world was weeping for her but who knows. Global warming was probably the real reason for it. Later that night my walk past the commission buildings confirmed the news that the Queen had indeed died.
Like all other scenarios, social media has taken it to extremes. On one side, people are devastated by the queen’s passing, with thousands standing outside the palace in the rain to show their respect. Other pages post the love story between the queen and Philip, her achievements, the places she has travelled to, her relationship with her family and how she served her people.
Tributes have been pouring out, with many fans of the British Monarchy not quite sure what to do with themselves. Black was worn and signs posted everywhere informed people of the news. A 12-day holiday has been given to the people to come to terms with the death. The UK’s devastation is understandable, the Royal family plays a massive part in many people’s lives and to lose their queen is a big loss. On the other side of the spectrum, hate has been seeping out all over social media with people dancing on her grave even before she has been laid to rest.
So upon hearing my Irish accent, one customer on my Sunday afternoon shift smiled at me and said that I must be delighted.
“Sure I’m happy enough,” I replied.
Sometimes people say things that sound strange because English is not their first language. You have to translate in your own head what they could mean. Was he commenting that I looked happy? But no, it wasn’t one of these situations because this guy was American.
“Why would I be delighted?” I said, confused.
“The queen’s death of course, don’t you Irish hate the queen?” he asked.
The comment triggered me, I won’t lie. Perhaps, if I was a member of the older generation, I would have more to say on this. I told him that I can’t speak for my country but that I personally wouldn’t find joy in somebody’s death. Yes some of the memes being shared are witty and many of them have gone viral, but at the end of the day somebody’s mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, etc has died and I think it’s a little callous to celebrate this. I think the man was a little taken aback but he persisted in asking if I wanted a united Ireland. I responded that this decision did not lie with me, laughing at this stage.
“But don’t you think Ireland should be united?”
I hate when people put answers in my mouth. If you know me, you know that I usually have an answer for everything and, if I don’t respond, it’s because I either don’t know enough about the topic or I know my answer will get me in trouble. Thankfully I have enough self-control not not to tell this man what I really thought - that he was a nosey so and so stuck in the past and that I don’t form opinions on people based on history or religion!
I told him that an election might answer the question, the result of which was not going to affect me living the life I want to live. He thanked me for my answer.
The persistence of this man annoyed me. As if the sole purpose of being Irish was to hate the queen and unite the country. I felt like this man was questioning my Irishness when I didn’t say what he expected. For as long as I can remember, the queen gave her speech on my television on Christmas day. I went to Church instead of Mass, I never went to Confessions or got my First Communion and I don’t hate the queen. Most of my friends are Catholic and, to be honest, this conversation never comes up and, if it does, it’s in a joking way. I think people abroad still imagine Catholics and Protestants ripping the heads off each other, which simply isn’t the case. I’d like to think I can still say I am Irish despite the way I was raised.
My honest opinion on the queen’s death is that none of us are going to last forever. Is it sad for people who are close to her? Of course. Will it affect my life? Not really.