Just in case the republican commentariat gets too excited, and in the unlikely, totally unlikely, event that you are not given all of the words the Prime Minister actually used when you read the columns of comment on them, and the radio and TV journalists tell you what he said or might have said or ought ot have said about the Constitution ,here they are, unedited:

"JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MR BERTIE AHEARN, TAOISEACH OF IRELAND (23 May 2006)

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard can I ask you, how soon do you think it’ll before Australia breaks the link with the British Monarchy? And could you explain to, dare I say, bemused Irish people the logic of maintaining that link?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh very easily, very easily, let me warm to the task. I wouldn’t put a date on that. We had a referendum which failed. I’m a monarchist as you know, I support the present constitutional arrangements. I don’t think there’s any prospect of them being broken while the Queen lives, and as to whether, on the assumption that she remains on the throne, which is the working assumption, as after that, well I’m not saying that it would automatically happen after that either.

I take the view that, and I say this in the presence of a bemused Irish public, I take the view that the circumstances…almost an historical accident has given us a very well functioning system of government.

I mean you need in a parliamentary system, you need a head of state. I am totally opposed to an elected presidency. I know you have one in Ireland but it wouldn’t work in Australia, it would represent an alternative power centre.

And if you really want to alter the dynamic of Australian politics and set up a rival power centre, have an elected presidency. So you know where do you go from there? Do you really think the system that you would replace the present system with would work out to be better? So I wouldn’t like to set a date on it, I’m not saying it won’t happen, I mean I just don’t know.

I think it’s next to impossible to happen given the regard in which the current monarch is held, I don’t think it’s going to happen in her lifetime. Obviously when she goes the dynamic will begin to change, I acknowledge that, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the institution will automatically go. I think it functions quite well and I don’t think anybody thinks, apart from some bemused Irish journalists, that it sort of in anyway compromises Australia’s independence."

So lets get one thing clear, Mr.Mike Carlton, Mr. Peter FitzSimons, the Drs.Henderson, and other paid up members of the republican commentariat -the PM did NOT predict Australia will become a republic when this reign ends.

Apparently some MP’s boycotted (an Irish word incidentally) Mr. Howard’s address to the Dáil Éireann, the parliament. These included the five members of Sinn Féin, generally believed to be the political wing of the IRA. As we mentioned in our column of 20 March, 2005, the IRA has some links with Australia, and not only because the IRA leader, Gerry Adams decided to intervene in the 1999 referendum, ,when he called on Australians to vote for a republic. The IRA brutally murdered two young Australian men in the Netherlands in the eighties. Its excuse, if excuse is the correct word, was that they thought the two Australians were British soldiers. The IRA apologised, but neither named nor offered to hand over the murderers. The then Prime Minister, Mr Bob Hawke, who has also addressed the Irish parliament, contemptuously rejected the apology. Perhaps the Sinn Féin members, who showed such interest in Australia, could have helped the authorities to re-open the investigation into these murders.