The Queen in Ireland

Submitted by Matthew on 18 May, 2011 - 3:09

Normally socialists would welcome a republican demonstration against the British monarchy. When the protests against the Queen's visit to Dublin are led by groups such as Republican Sinn Fein, the 1986 split off linked to the Continuity IRA, more needs to be said though.

The Queen's visit sums up a number of things.

At one level, the mere possibilty of a visit by the (unelected) British head of state to the Republic of Ireland reflects the Good Friday Agreement "peace process" in the North. To some extent, it also flows from the myriad connections between Britain and Ireland both in the past (the tens of thousands of Irishmen, Protestant and Catholic, who died in the trenches in British uniform in World War I for instance) and now: economic ties as fellow members of the European Union, the vast number of Irish migrant workers and their descendants in Britain and - not unimportantly for Elizabeth - a shared interest in horseracing.

The protests themselves were small and politically confused. The main slogan on the placards was "Britain out of Ireland". As a BBC commentator pointed out, twenty years ago that would have read "Troops Out" but with British troops in the North largely redeployed elsewhere over the last decade (many of them to Iraq and then Afghanistan), that has clearly lost its grip. The inescapable logic of the slogan is British (i.e. Northern Irish Protestant) people out of Ireland.

Many aspects of the visit were however incongruous, especially the visit to the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square. Opened by Éamon De Valera in 1966 on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, it is dedicated to the Irishmen and Irishwomen who fought for independence from Britain over the centuries, from Wolfe Tone's United Irishmen in 1798 to the rebels of Easter week 1916. Given Queen Elizabeth is the granddaughter of George V whose army fought against and ultimately executed the leaders of the Easter Rising, the sight of her laying a wreath there was particularly strange, especially to the strains of The Soldier's Song, the Irish national anthem written by a Republican volunteer in 1916 (and uncle of writers Brendan and Dominic Behan) Peadar Kearney.

It neatly summed up the craven trajectory of the Irish bourgeoisie: from the leaders of the Irish Free State (albeit with British guns in the Civil War) taking advantage, as Michael Collins put it, of "the freedom to win freedom", through the constitutional Republicans of Fianna Fail under De Valera in the 1930's making Ireland a "republic externally associated with the British Empire" (underlined by its neutrality in World War II) and the postwar Fine Gael-Labour-Clann na Poblachta coalition in 1949 formally declaring Ireland a republic and breaking the remaining links with the British Crown to the current leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael inviting a British monarch to lay a wreath at a shrine to Irish Republicanism!

Comments

Submitted by Matthew on Wed, 18/05/2011 - 15:58

This article by Fintan O'Toole focuses on the Queen's visit to Croke Park in Dublin, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association which as he rightly points out is one of the last remaining pillars of of Irish Republicanism:

"A century ago, if you asked a typical Irish nationalist what was distinctively Irish, they'd have listed the big forces that defined their culture: the Catholic church, nationalist politics, attachment to the land, the Irish language and the GAA. Today, almost all of those markers of identity are gone or weakened. The church may never recover from the child-abuse scandals that have destroyed its authority in the past decade. The Fianna Fáil party that captured mainstream nationalism and dominated Irish politics for half a century was decimated in February's election. Ireland has long since ceased to be a rural, agricultural society. The Irish language clings on but the aim of making it the everyday tongue is further from fulfilment than ever."

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