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Gerry O'Carroll: You're most welcome Liz... your visit should bring in a few million

YOUNGER pals have asked if I remember the last queen's visit to Ireland.

Funnily enough, I don't.

But I'll certainly be in Dublin to welcome Liz on her Royal visit later this year.

You couldn't describe me as a Royalist, nor am I a staunch Republican.

No, just like the vast majority of Irish people I'm somewhere in between.

The way I see it, Queen Elizabeth's visit will be a boon for tourism and the TV images broadcast around the world will be worth tens of millions in free advertising.

That's why the lunatic fringe like Eirigi and their pals shouldn't be allowed hijack the event.

After all, we all know CNN, the BBC, Sky and al Jazeera will be seeking out the naysayers and beaming their angry message by satellite.

The message that should go out is that we bear Mrs Windsor and her Greek/German hubby and the rest of her dysfunctional family no ill will at all.

Of course, John Stokes of the Players Lounge in Fairview enjoyed more publicity this week with his anti-Liz banner.

The 60ft by 20ft sign shouts: "She and her family are all officially barred from this pub as long as the British occupy one inch of this island they will never be welcome in Ireland.

"It was meant to be a bit of a joke, a bit of craic," he says

Mr Stokes, who is the father of Celtic striker Anthony Stokes, said his son was in no way connected to the banner.

I'm sure he wasn't.

As a publicity stunt it has been a surefire winner -- with John on the radio and foreign press.

But we all know that it's the kind of message the majority of us don't share.

Cead Mile Failte Lizzie, baby.

Enda puts pint-sized Sarko in his place

I never knew he had it in him, but I've developed a new appreciation for Enda Kenny after seeing him stand up to that pint-sized Frenchman Nicholas Sarkozy.

By all accounts, when the pair locked horns last week it made for a torrid and stormy meeting. The gloves were off and Enda endured a baptism of fire when he squared up to the diminutive Sarkozy and the stony-faced Angela Merkel.

It's clear that this was a fraught, tension-filled discussion. And why wouldn't it be? After all, the stakes are high.

This was Enda's first big meeting as Taoiseach and at the centre was Ireland's low rate of corporation tax which Sarkozy and Merkel have been eyeing up. I had to laugh at Sarkozy's typical Gallic understatement in seeking a reduction in our rate, given that France's corporation tax rate is even lower than our own.

This was truly a huge test for Enda, and by refusing to be swayed he has won the first round of the battle.

I know it hasn't been lost on Enda Kenny that to capitulate would be economic and political suicide. The leaders of all parties realise the importance of retaining this. Yet he faces a tough road ahead. I have no doubt that in the coming months both he and other ministers will be under increasingly hostile pressure from our erstwhile friends in Europe to change that policy. It must not happen.

If we are to pull ourselves out of economic ruin, we must not surrender. We took Europe out of a major dilemma when we voted a second time on the Lisbon Treaty. We won't become the whipping boys of Europe on this issue. So Enda, keep the faith. Look into Sarkozy's eyes and warn him that this time we are not for turning.

Why we must have a sense of humour

RTE reporter Marie-Louise O'Donnell told us how, at Enda Kenny's Mayo homecoming, party-goers smelled of "turf and porridge and tweed and prayer" and had "great wide faces and sparkly eyes and thick wiry hair".

Some critics didn't see her sense of humour and jammed the RTE phone lines to protest.

As a proud Kerryman, I've endured years of ribald comment and a plethora of Kerryman jokes, but I take them all on the chin. Likewise, Cavan people are branded as skinflints and misers, and the poor aul jackeens come in for their share of stick.

These stereotypes may not showcase our best attributes, but we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and recognise that exaggeration is at the heart of these jokes.

Let's hope rugby lads give us more to cheer

What would we do without great sporting occasions to lift our spirits?

We're a sport-mad nation, so this week is the highlight of the year for many of us.

I'm currently glued to the feast of racing in Cheltenham, and sure while I'm at it, why not give you all a little tip? I fancy Master Minded in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and if you want to win big bucks, back Big Buck's in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle tomorrow.

Of course, the icing on the cake is this weekend's mouth-watering showdown between the Irish rugby team led by Brian O'Driscoll and the old enemy England in the Six Nations.

Hopefully a win will give us another excuse to paint the country green.

Enjoy St Patrick's Day, but stay safe

Like every other proud Irish man and Irish woman, I can't wait to celebrate the feast of our patron saint St Patrick tomorrow. If ever a touch of national pride was badly needed, it is now, in these dark, depressing times.

I'll be raising a glass or two to mark the occasion, and I aim to enjoy myself in a local hostelry. I'm sure many of my friends will do the same, but what none of us wants to see is a celebration marred by excessive drunkenness and loutish behaviour.

Sometimes I think we have cut a stick to beat ourselves with because Ireland has slipped down the scale of alcohol consumption globally and we have shown in recent years that we can celebrate this great day without trouble. Perhaps, as a nation, we have grown up. Whatever the reason, I fervently hope that tomorrow's festivities, whether or not they involve drowning the shamrock, will be a happy, joyful and safe occasion.