Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Windsor Visit & The illusion of Change

The following is an opinion piece written by éirígí Tír Chonaill spokesperson Micheál Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig

If we were to believe our politicians and the corporate media, the recent Windsor visit was about the Irish people 'maturing' as a nation, 'putting the past behind us' and normalising relations between the people of Britain and Ireland.

What they did not tell us is how welcoming the head of state and commander in chief of an army that still occupies part of our country is 'putting the past behind us'? Or how spending tens of millions of euros at a time of widespread unemployment, emigration and poverty to host lavish banquets in honour of an anti-democratic sectarian monarch is a sign of us 'maturing' as a nation.

They didn't tell us because it is manufactured spin produced by a cosy consensus of political and corporate media elites. Instead of reporting news and analysis of this visit the media acted as cheerleaders for it.

What they produced was a one-sided commentary full of gushing praise for the Windsors which bore no relation to the reality of this visit or what they represent. It resembled a fashion magazine social diary column rather than coverage of a visit by the Commander in Chief of an army that has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

In order for us all to 'mature' sufficiently, Britain's crimes had to be ignored. The families of the victims of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings were snubbed once more with Britain again refusing to open its secret files in relation to Britain's involvement in those murderous attacks.

Here was the Head of State and Commander in Chief of an army which continues to commit human rights abuses, torture and murder around the world being fawned over by our politicians. Nobody dared mention the 'occupation', whether it be Afghanistan or the one nearer to home, in case it might offend the Windsors. Reporting on Britain's human rights abuses and crimes are apparently in the minds of many journalists of far lesser importance than reporting the colour of Windsors outfit.

The main aim of this visit was 'normalisation'. But it was the normalisation of partition and the occupation of the six counties, not normalisation of relations between the people of Ireland and Britain.

But there is nothing normal about five thousand British troops remaining in Ireland, backed up by 9000 of the human rights abusing paramilitary RUC/PSNI and hundreds of MI5 operatives. There is nothing normal about their systematic campaign of intimidation against those who dare challenge British rule in Ireland. There is nothing normal about their thousands of illegal stop and search operations which are in violation of European human rights legislation.

There was also nothing normal about the Garda response to protests against this visit. For weeks éirígí activists and others opposing the visit, endured intimidation and threats at the hands of the Gardai. On the eve of the visit, as myself and other éirígí activists legally erected posters in Dublin advertising protests, we were stopped and interrogated. And while Windsor was praised for using cúpla focail, only for the arrival on the scene of a TV crew, I was set to be arrested for speaking my native language.

Gardai tore down and stole posters off activists. They effectively banned the tricolour in Dublin city centre, confiscating and dumping them in refuse trucks while the union flag flew above government buildings. A number of banners including one that read 'fund communities not royal visits' was siezed by Gardai who deemed it 'offensive' during a search of a car belonging to éirígí Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan.

These bully boy tactics underlines the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the state. It exposes the lie that this state allows freedom of assembly, freedom to engage in peaceful protest and freedom to organise political activity. As a socialist republican and someone who has witnessed Garda policing of anti-Shell protests in Mayo, this behaviour is no surprise. Peaceful protest in this state is tolerated only if the Gardai and their political masters say so.

But there was also another agenda at play here. Many of those pushing for this visit to happen in recent years wish to see this state re-enter the British commonwealth. And while some might say this could never happen, the same would have been said ten years if it was suggested that this visit would ever happen. People were accused of scaremongering when they suggested this states neutrality was under threat, yet now Shannon airport is virtually a US military airbase, while Irish troops operate regularly alongside NATO.

It is vital that people dont allow their politicians to sleep-walk them into re-entering the British Commonwealth. So I am calling on the government's two TD's in this county, deputies McGinley and McHugh, to publicly declare where they and their party stand on this issue. We need to be ridding this island of the final remnants of British rule, not seeking to be re-conquered by Britain.

The last visit of an English Monarch to the twenty six counties took place 100 years ago. Opposition to that protest was led by socialist republicans like James Connolly and Constance Markievicz. While the majority of the political establishment led by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore were bowing and scraping before the Windsors, and others weren't too sure whether they were actually for or against this visit, once again it was socialist republicans that led the resistance and protests against it.

To conclude, let me reiterate our opposition to any 'British royal' being welcomed to any part of Ireland. In the aftermath of the Windsor visit, it has now emerged that invites have been extended to Charles Windsor to visit the north-west. In the event of any such visit, éirígí will organise resistance and demonstrations against it here in this region just as we did in recent weeks in Dublin.

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