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7 April 2005 Edition

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The 5th Column

Royal mugs

THINGS AIN'T what they used to be — not least for the British royal family souvenir trade. While royalists try to feign some enthusiasm for this weekend's wedding between the self-styled Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Carlos's long-time mistress, the public can barely summon any enthusiasm for a commemorative mug.

The wedding nuptials of the aristocrat known as Prince (whose management changed the family amidst strong anti-German feeling at the height of the First World War from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor) take place in Windsor this Saturday.

But royal sycophants, usually ever ready to part with their queen's shillings for any old bit of tat that has a royal image on it, aren't snapping up the Carlos-Camilla range of ornaments.

The Liverpool-based Prince William Potteries (named after the address of its first factory) made one million cups in honour of Carlos's first wedding, to Diana Spencer, in 1981.

But the potty makers in Knotty Ash have turned out a mere 2,000 cups to mark Camilla's rise to possible future queen of England.

"There has definitely been a decline in the market for this kind of thing," pottery worker Peter Rogers lamented to the Liverpool Echo. "But to sell as few as this is unprecedented."

So is the souvenir royal memorabilia line headed for the pound shops? Not yet. Peter the Potter said: "They're for a company in Leeds which is holding a special bingo event on the night of the wedding."

Royal party balloons

PARENTS with children who happen to bump into the royal wedding party had better make sure their tiny tots aren't caught in possession of 'threatening weapons' — like balloons.

Two teenage pranksters were swept off the streets and thrown into a top-security slammer by the Yorkshire Police Terrorist Squad after they burst balloons for a laugh when Britain's Queen's motorcade passed through Wakefield last Thursday week.

The queen's family spends its weekends blasting pheasants to bits with double-barrelled shotguns but the sound of a party balloon popping had the Yorkshire police puddings reaching for their holsters.

Even though the two youngsters were quickly cleared of being an Al-Qaida war party, they were unceremoniously hauled before Wakefield Youth Court this week and made to apologise for what the magistrate called their "despicable prank" after admitting "threatening or insulting behaviour".

We're waiting for similar charges to be brought against Queen Elizabeth Windsor and her benighted dynasty.

Orangeman caught in the act

IN THE WEEK that Catholics and people of many other denominations and none pay their respects as the Pope is buried on Friday, the Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order — a Presbyterian Minister — has reluctantly said sorry for 'entertaining' a concert audience at Drumbo Presbyterian Church Hall, near Lisburn, with an impersonation of the Pope suffering from Parkinson's disease.

News of the Reverend Stephen Dickinson's outrageous act in February only emerged this week, with even some unionist politicians revealing their distaste. But the Orange Order's spiritual leader denied that he had focused on the Pope's illness and said:

"People who were there took it in the spirit it was intended. It was just a bit of fun and innocently done. This was long before people were aware the Pope was so gravely ill. A few people are trying to make mischief out of nothing."

One of those who took it in the spirit of the Reverend Dickinson was DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who seems ever-sensitive to anything republicans and nationalists do. But Jeffrey says:

"I regret that someone is trying to make cheap political capital during a period of mourning. It is they who lack respect, not anyone else. I am sure he didn't intend to offend anyone."

So why then did the Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order and Presbyterian minister "unreservedly apologise" this week if any offence was taken, either by members of the Catholic community or anyone suffering from Parkinson's Disease?

Fianna Fáil nuggets

FIANNA FÁIL has been compared by a well-known political insider as being like a McDonald's franchise but run with "a golden circle instead of golden arches".

The experienced commentator slated the Mount Street mandarins who pull Fianna Fáil's strings. "If you want to run for the party they'll roll out the hats, cups and straws. And if you succeed, well and good; but if you don't make it, then they don't want to know you."

Who's dishing the dirt on the Fianna Fáil leadership? None other than the former Mayor of Dublin, Royston Brady, Fianna Fáil's failed Euro candidate, who was routed by Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald (absolutely no relation with the Big Mac empire).

Royston, now a morning chat-show host on Dublin radio station Newstalk 106, is telling anyone who'll listen that the Soldiers of Destiny have dragged his name through even more mud after his disastrous performance by not keeping their promise to pay his election debts. The deserted Soldier of Destiny has debts of between €50,000 and €100,000 a year after his glitzy, high profile campaign. Royston is also the baby brother of leader Bertie Ahern's right-hand man and chief fixer, Senator Cyprian Brady. Are they in Royston's "golden circle"?

Fur flies in the Dáil

THE DÁIL is due to return next week and we can expect more verbal jousts between Sinn Féin's feisty Arthur Morgan TD and the pillars of Fianna Fáil and the PDs. Just before the recess, the wee TD from the Wee County was speaking in support of a ban on fur farming and we have nothing to add to this contribution.

"Let us look briefly at the economics of this issue. On the basis of export value, a single animal pelt is sold for €14. The animals are killed after seven months. That means that fur farmers, assuming that they extract no profit from the whole business, spend 6.6 cent per day on the animals in their loving care. There is not much scope there for luxuries. There are no days out to the beach for the mink and foxes or no treats for birthdays or bank holidays. In fact, it would be impossible to provide any type of decent existence for any living creature for just over 6 cent a day.

"A colleague of mine who works here asked his young daughter, Ciara, to work out how much it costs to feed and house one of her guinea pigs. This was a most interesting survey.

"A bag of dried food lasts for six months and costs €7. Bedding for the same period costs €8. In addition to that, she feeds the animal with carrots and broccoli that cost approximately €2 a week. That works out at 36 cent per day. I humbly suggest that the economics of this business to supply fur coats and hats for the idle rich can only mean one thing for the animals who are the real fashion victims: a short, nasty, crowded, poorly-fed existence that ends in being gassed or electrocuted.

"When I was preparing my script I was tempted to say that the 'short, nasty, crowded' part was just like a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting. However, I resisted. I did not include that in my script."

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