An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Friday, May 21, 2004  

Sir Anthony and Suds

I read somewhere once how Ireland's self esteem was linked to Peter Sutherland's success. The only Irishman not to be a victim of our innate begrudgery, we are thrilled when he reaches new heights of success. From outstanding EU Commissioner to head of the WTO and disgustingly rich through Goldman Sachs, chairman of BP and all round slug, yesterday he received a knighthood from the Queen. To his great credit, when asked if he would be using the title 'sir', he answered "of course not".

Unlike 'Sir'Anthony, possessor of Ireland's biggest ego. The IT provides the explanation as to how Anthony gets away with pathetically insisting upon the title. Suds accepted an honorary knighthood whereas Tony's is an actual knighthood.

"Irish citizens can adopt a title if they also hold British citizenship, which is available to people born in the Republic prior to January 1st, 1949.

But Mr Sutherland, who was born in Dublin in 1946, has chosen not to avail of dual citizenship. This contrasts with Sir Anthony O'Reilly who was awarded a knighthood in the British new year's honours list of 2001.

Sir Anthony claims to have held dual Irish and British citizenship since his birth. Before accepting his knighthood, the businessman and newspaper magnate obtained the permission of the Government in accordance with Article 40.2.2 of the Constitution.

The Article states that "no title of nobility or honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government". The requirement only applies to full honours, to which titles are attached, and does not apply to honorary awards like that bestowed on Mr Sutherland."

Of course, if the government had any balls they should have refused Tony' request. No such luck.

posted by Sarah | 10:10 4 comments
Note that there is a precedent for a country saying No to a citizen getting a UK title, forcing the person to choose between the title and the citizenship. Conrad Black, who dumped his Canadian citizenship to take the title:
sorry, wrong link:
Interesting, I hadn't read this blog until now.

I'm wondering how to feel about the British conferring knighthoods on Irish people. It seems like a good compliment at face value. I recall Bob Geldoff's reaction at the time for his knighthood. Many folk thought he might refuse it being the maverick he was. Bob was delighted to accept it - saying to one reporter "Of course I accept it. If someone offers me a cup of coffee, I accept it". What he meant was that if someone gives you an award in a spirit of generousity why should you not accept it?

Is it a problem because it comes from the British, our old oppressors? I know that many British in centuries gone by saw ordinary Irish folk as some kind of humanoid ape-like creatures who uttered a gibberish language. Now they are conferring some of us with knighthoods out of respect for exceptional deeds. Seems we need to put the past behind us at some point. Furthermore - if someone accepts a knighthood - what's wrong with using it? If someone gives you a gift then it is polite to use it. It seems like hypocricy or least ungratefulness otherwise.

However, I do agree it is silly to "insist" on being called Sir XYZ. Someone might put the title on display on cards and communications but it is crazy to get upset if some just decides to call you Mr. XYZ. Displaying the title is a mark of respect by the recipient to the doner. It's entirely a matter for others if they decide to address the person with it or not.

Above are just my initial views. I might be persuaded to think differently!

PS - I also recall Sir Bob being asked what the Queen said to him at the conferring. It seems she asked him was it difficult for him to travel to get there (London and the Palace). Bob(dressed in pinstripes and tie) told her:

"Not as difficult as getting into these clothes!" Aparantly the Queen enjoyed a knowing chuckle at this.
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