Comment Opinion & Features

Prince Andrew’s unanswered questions

Prince Andrew (Getty)

Many people watching Prince Andrew’s television interview at the weekend will have been thinking of the impact on the Queen – watching the son she has always favoured in such a humiliating position. And then watching the reaction, which analysed the said interview as catastrophic, disastrous, a “car crash”, ill-advised and self-serving, accusing Andrew of having scant compassion for the victims of his friend Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile.

But the Queen is 93, and it is possible, even probable, that she takes a longer view. Towards the end of his life, my husband tended to react to all media-led revelations with the reflection: “’Twas ever thus.” Elizabeth may also have reflected on all the errors, transgressions and scandals she has known about throughout her life. Or even the “car crash” episodes that harmed Edward VII’s reputation before he became king – that recent ancestor also had some very sleazy friends.

As a long-lived matriarch, the Queen will know that men do foolish things, show bad judgment, and, from her Christian faith, that we are all sinning creatures. That doesn’t mean she won’t feel hurt and upset by the whole saga.

Yet there remain, for me, many unanswered questions. If a 17-year-old girl was “trafficked” by Epstein for his pleasure, as alleged, where were her parents or guardians? If she was still a child, legally, didn’t somebody have a duty of care?

There is also an unresolved question hovering over the whole subject of “choice”. The famous Gillick ruling in the House of Lords of 1985 effectively opened the floodgates by establishing that adolescent girls, even under the age of consent – 16 in the UK – were entitled to make “choices” when it came to sexual activity. This element of “choice” is now driving the transgender agenda, where very young people are given “choices” as to which gender they wish to be.

Paedophile offences are odious and, yes, the victims should be at the forefront of concern. But there’s a lot of social hypocrisy about the context of a sexualised culture which gives the nod to including adolescents in a permissive society.

***

The talked-about movie of the month is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. It’s another Mafiosi saga – and three-and-a-half hours long. It stars Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro – who plays Frank Sheeran, the Irishman among the Italian-American mafia. Filmgoers will remember from Scorsese’s 1990 classic Goodfellas that Irish mobsters could never be admitted to full Mafia status, because they weren’t Sicilians.

But the uncomfortable implication in Scorsese’s new epic is that Irish gangsters were to some degree acceptable because they were at least Catholics. Not for the first time in a Mafia movie, there’s an artful juxtaposition of sinister scenes of criminal violence against sequences of religious ceremonies in a beautiful Catholic church.

The Irishman begins with a tracking shot of old gangster Sheeran in a care home which is veritably weighed down with symbols of Catholic piety.

Joe Kennedy, father of President John F Kennedy, comes out of the story rather badly, with the suggestion that he “bought” the presidency with the proceeds of crime.

The Irishman is in cinemas now, but will be on Netflix from November 27.

***

Niall Tóibín was a well-loved Irish actor who died recently, aged 89. Almost every major Irish actor has played a priest at one point or another, and Niall – a charming Corkman – played more than most. He was Fr Mackay in Brideshead Revisited (with Laurence Olivier), Fr Donovan in Coronation Street, Fr Frank MacAnally in Ballykissangel and another priest in a 1986 movie Rawhead Rex.

’m researching Irish actors who have played priests, on stage or screen. Dermot Morgan in Father Ted (along with Frank Kelly and Ardal O’Hanlon) were perhaps the most notorious. Cyril Cusack, a great actor, played a priest in at least three screen appearances, most engagingly as Father Giffley in Strumpet City. Brendan Gleeson played Father Bubbles in the film of The Butcher Boy and Fr James Lavelle in Calvary. Sean McGinley was Father Chris Doran in The Field (with Richard Harris) and Conor Moloney is Father Damien in Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Any other suggestions? I’d be glad to hear of other thespians who donned the clerical collar in performance.

Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4