Those who dreamed and planned the visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain to Ireland seem to have missed the mark in some very big ways.
This second day of 'festivities' in Dublin involving the queen, her entourage and a small army of security officers fell about as flat as a series if events can possibly go.
The main problem with this massive dog-and-pony show seems to be that security fears have left this visit a sort of non event. The ostensible purpose of the queen coming here was to continue the process of peace between Ireland and the United Kingdom that has been proceeding -- this time -- since 1998.
Needless to say, after more than 800 years of English occupation of Ireland -- which continues in six counties here -- it's high time to get on with things. And maybe parading the 85-year-old queen and her husband, Prince Philip, 90, around Dublin could have been a great piece in the overall reconciliation puzzle.
But after watching this affair on the telly for two days it doesn't look like much is going to be accomplished -- other than a bunch of Irish and British politicians patting themselves on their backs and telling each other how great things now are between the two countries.
Mainly this is because hardly anyone is getting to see the queen. And as far as I know, she'smade no public utterances at all after two days of highly managed and scripted visits to some of the hot spots of Irish Republicanism.
As one CNN correspondent put it this afternoon when asked how the visit is going down with the the Irish citizenry, the reporter answered: 'It's hard to tell. They've got the security so tight there is hardly any public interaction possible.'
Nowhere was this more apparent, or pathetic, than when they dragged the queen into Croke Park this afternoon.
Croke Park was where British soldiers murdered 14 Irish soccer spectators in 1920. The action was in retaliation for the shooting of 14 British intelligence and other officers. As a result, Croke Park, home of various Gaelic games, has always been a symbol of Irish republican sentiment.
So a visit by the queen was not totally out of the question so long as she was there to publicly demonstrate, however tacitly, that it's time for old animosities and hatreds to be put aside.
But the geniuses who put this thing together left one vital element of this presentation out of the picture. Sadly, the only ones meeting the queen were a bunch of old sports figures, a marching band, children doing Irish dancing and other attractions. Left missing in this stadium that holds some 80,000 people was even one spectator. A more forlorn exhibition couldn't be imagined.
There sat the British queen in the midst of a huge empty arena saying nothing publicly. And no one was there to watch anyway.
To be sure, there are those on this island who strongly disagreed with the idea of the queen coming here at all. There remain bad feelings for the Brits that are difficult to explain and even harder to dispel. There is no question that security for the visit was always going to be a challenge.
But why bring the queen here at all if she is to be kept almost hermetically isolated from a public whose good will one would imagine she is here to win?
One economic pundit argued on a news program yesterday that no matter who does or doesn't get to see Queen Elizabeth during her four days here, it's still a great thing to have her here because of huge amount of trade these days between the two countries.
I suppose that somewhere deep in that argument is some grain of truth. But let's face it: The underlying anger caused by the English and the British occupation of Ireland that included centuries of mistreatment of the Irish isn't really going to be eased by our being able to buy cheaper vacuum cleaners and iPods or fresher apples from Tesco.
-- Pat O'Brien