Tim McGarry: The hilarious saga around Harry and Meghan has turned me into a royalist

A column by the comedian TIM MCGARRY:

By Tim McGarry
Saturday, 13th March 2021, 9:30 am
Updated Saturday, 13th March 2021, 12:27 pm
The comedian Tim McGarry, who will now write a bi weekly column for the News Letter. From March 25, it will appear on Thursdays
The comedian Tim McGarry, who will now write a bi weekly column for the News Letter. From March 25, it will appear on Thursdays

As this is my first ever column for the News Letter, it is probably an apposite time to ‘out’ myself.

I am a republican.

Not, I hasten to add, a Sinn Fein, Border Poll Now, chuckee ar la (editor please check spelling) republican, but rather a ‘why does any self-respecting nation still have a Royal Family?’ republican.

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Duke and Duchess of Sussex talk to Oprah Winfrey in California, as screened in the UK on March 8. It was part of a jaw-dropping family psycho-drama, a potential constitutional crisis and the most passive-aggressive use ever of the phrase “some recollections may vary”. It was a hugely welcome diversion from grim reality. Photo: ITV Hub courtesy of Harpo Productions/CBS

Why do we still have kings and queens and princes in the 21st century?

Government of the people by the people for the people seems far preferable to the notion of inherited power and privilege.

However, having watched this week’s royal shenanigans, I’ve changed my mind.

I’m a convert.

Rangers fans outside Ibrox stadium in Glasgow last weekend. Tim McGarry writes: "It’s understandable the fans got a little exuberant winning the Scottish Premier League. But the Covid breaches were blatant. Thankfully Cliftonville insist on keeping their fans safe by refusing to win the Irish League"

I’ve become a convinced royalist.

A regal advocate.

An upholder of pomp and circumstance.


The News Letter’s legal adviser — Mr J Bryson of Donaghadee. Scroll down to find out more

Well because the royal family have shown themselves to be top-class,

A list entertainers. They are like the Kardashians but with fewer booty shots and more ermine.

Fair enough, unlike the Windsors, we don’t actually have to pay for the Kardashians, but let’s give credit where it is due.

We’ve endured a year of non-stop Covid news and anxiety-inducing briefings by Robin Swann and Michael McBride. But this week the entire nation temporarily forgot about the C word as the royal family delivered revelations, allegations and retaliations.

There was a jaw-dropping family psycho-drama, a high class celebrity spat.

Who made who cry? Who said what to whom?

There was a potential constitutional crisis and best of all there was the most passive-aggressive use ever of the phrase “some recollections may vary”.

I must admit I have found the whole thing hilarious and an unprecedented and hugely welcome diversion from grim reality.

TV audiences were huge.

Clips, jokes and memes abounded on social media. Newspaper sales (hopefully) increased dramatically – though as an aside, hats off to the Irish News who relegated the royal story to page 9 below more important stories like ‘GAA player likes playing GAA’.

Some serious issues were of course raised by all these majestic antics.

So people took to Twitter. And there, they debated racism, the legal precedents for assigning imperial titles to babies and Oprah Winfrey’s hairdo.

And the discussions had all the high-minded depth, intellectual rigour and kind consideration of alternative views that you would expect from a medium that permits a maximum of 280 characters per tweet.

So I say we keep the royals.

If only for the entertainment value.

And let’s face it if we scrapped the royal family and instead had an elected president, Brexit Britain would probably make it a toss-up between Nigel Farage and Piers Morgan.

And no nation deserves that.

Amidst all the allegations of institutional discrimination one thing was overlooked.

As a Catholic (albeit extremely lapsed, to the point of atheism) I am unable to become King. The Act of Settlement of 1701 still bars Papists like me from ascending the throne.

I’ll be honest, this blatant block on my career prospects hadn’t particularly troubled me before.

Frankly the number of princesses throwing themselves at me has been slightly less than the number of Catholics celebrating Rangers winning the Scottish Premier League (SPL). But it’s the principle that counts.

So after completing this column I will immediately be writing to Oprah to demand my two hour interview.

The PSNI have launched an ‘investigation’ in to alleged breaches of the Covid regulations by celebrating Rangers fans on the Shankill Road this week.

In line with similar investigations, Operation Look at the News Footage, should take about 12 months to complete, by which time Celtic may well have reclaimed the SPL, making any subsequent convictions of Rangers fans doubly painful.

Rangers winning the SPL is of course a once in a decade event, so it’s understandable that their fans got a little exuberant.

I should make it clear that whilst I am a football fan myself, I genuinely do not follow and have no interest whatsoever in Scottish football.

As Kevin Bridges famously said “Scottish football is a two horse race, and we’ve now lost a horse”.

But as a football fan I get it.

I get why the team I like doing better than team you like in an annual competition leads to unbridled ecstasy. But the Covid breaches were pretty blatant and indefensible.

Thankfully my local team Cliftonville have insisted on keeping their fans safe from this sort of thing by steadfastly refusing to win the Irish League.

This is the first column I have ever written for the News Letter and I was delighted to be asked by the world’s oldest daily newspaper to be a contributor.

But this is Northern Ireland so when I told a few people about the column I was lambasted by a nationalist friend for ‘taking the soup’.

He assumed that as an avowed unionist paper I would be subject to censorship.

Nonsense. As I told my friend the editorial procedure is very simple.

Basically I write my article. It is then sent to Ben Lowry to make sure there are no Irish words in it.

Next it is passed on to the News Letter’s legal adviser — Mr J Bryson of Donaghadee — before final approval by the editorial committee, better known as the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

It is a damning indictment of a divided Northern Ireland that my friend almost believed me.

• Tim McGarry’s column will appear bi weekly in the News Letter on Thursdays from March 25

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