Royal book raises serious issues

While many Irish citizens will be unperturbed by the latest lurid reports of confrontation and upheaval within the British royal family, at least two wider issues emerge from the book about to be published by the Duke of Sussex.

The first is whether the UK can indefinitely maintain a system under which an elite and fabulously wealthy group always provides the unelected head of state, and the second is the accountability applied to the role of the British Army in various conflicts over the decades.

There has been an increasing sense that constitutional change is possible in London and beyond since the death of Queen Elizabeth last year at the age of 96, after a remarkable and widely respected reign of 70 years which was the longest of any British monarch.

Separate debates over Irish unity and Scottish independence are also developing rapidly, and it is quite conceivable that the next British head of state after King Charles will preside over an entirely different set of arrangements.

The allegations put forward by the Duke of Sussex about the dysfunctional nature of his family are striking, even allowing for the enormous personal hostility he displays towards them, and decisions over the future of the monarchy may ultimately have to be put to voters through a referendum.

It will also be noted the same individual believes he had an entitlement to travel overseas with the British armed forces and deploy devasting firepower against perceived opponents during uprisings in underprivileged regions, despite admitting to the previous use of cocaine and cannabis.

His Apache helicopter, reportedly worth £100m, was equipped with sophisticated and deadly weaponry, capable of striking targets a full mile away, and there was an unmistakably arrogant tone to his claims that he killed at least 25 so far unidentified people in Afghanistan during 2012/13, describing them coldly as `chess pieces taken off the board’.

Similar basic attitudes among British military personnel will be familiar to all those who have studied Irish history, and there will be little confidence that any proper form of independent public investigation into his activities will ever follow.

It is unlikely that the Duke of Sussex will ever become Britain's head of state but he may unwittingly have helped the process of bringing his country and its neighbours towards a stage of democratic reform.