A lot of guff gets spoken by Irish politicians on TV and radio but it's not every day we the people are provided with a 'spit your tea onto your computer monitor in absolute bafflement' moment. It happened last night on Tonight on Virgin Media One as Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty introduced a new phrase to the Irish phrasebook.
Senator Doherty described the flow of British people to the island beginning around 1169 - which historians call colonisation - as '800 years of common travel.' That's definitely one way of describing it: you might say it's technically true. Doherty also refers to the 'mainland' UK in that clip, which is a phrase you'd expect from an DUP MLA but not a public representative in Dáil Eireann. The term '800 years of common travel' conjures mental images of delighted Irish people and Britons merrymaking in Cornwall or Kinsale, or ribald scenes at Rosslare harbor as people from Cardiff, Bangor and Inverness wait for their leisure boat to depart from Rosslare harbour after a blissful week fraternising with locals. The historical record is a bit different.
During a week when Pascal Donohue received an apology for a question from RTÉ about a question on children's shoes, soundbites like this prove that, if anything, Fine Gael clearly understands its brand values.
Twitter was incredulous. It wasn't just Republican Twitter who was appalled, it was many logical thinking viewers who couldn't believe what they'd heard.
The people of Ireland react to Regina Doherty's '800 years of common travel' comments from last night. pic.twitter.com/y1TsnUo0vM
— Aidan Fitzmaurice (@FancyVegasPro) April 2, 2021
Ah, 800 Years of Common Travel, one of the lesser known Wolfe Tones ballads https://t.co/8E9a48hHuj
— Oireachtas Retort (@Oireachtas_RX) April 1, 2021
"Cromwell was just encouraging staycations in the West of Ireland" - Regina Doherty
— AIIan (@ACaomhanach) April 2, 2021
If an English politician on a BBC panel show had casually dropped any of the clangers Regina Doherty came out with tonight we'd be talking about it for weeks and there wouldn't be a thatched roof left with a pike stashed away in it.
— Quine At The Discothèque. (@EXECUTIVESTEVE) April 1, 2021