Irish Republican News · May 24, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Politicians succumb to state visit mania
Politicians succumb to state visit mania
michaelbrowne.jpg

The Sinn Fein mayor of Cashel created controversy on Friday when he became the first member of his party to shake the hand of a British monarch.

Michael Browne met Elizabeth Windsor on the final day of the state visit as she toured the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. He said it was his civic duty to make the gesture.

“I just shook hands with her,” he said. “I just said to her: ‘Welcome to Cashel, your majesty, and I hope you enjoy your stay.’ No more, no less.”

Mr Browne said the queen had thanked him for his welcome.

Asked if he was the first member of Sinn Fein to meet the queen and shake hands, Mr Browne said: “I would say so, yeah.”

Muiris O Suilleabhain, Sinn Fein’s South Tipperary spokesman, said the party’s position remained that the royal visit was premature.

“Party members in Tipperary were surprised by Michael Browne’s action, especially as he recently signed a statement against the English queen’s visit to the Rock of Cashel,” Mr O Suilleabhain said.

Sinn Fein has been stretched by the royal visit, which received an extraordinary level of promotion and support by both the state-run and state-sponsored private media.

The party has distanced itself from the more active and left-wing republican groups, which were heavily demonised in the media for organising activist protests against what was a hugely polarising visit.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams controversially referred to Windsor as “Her Majesty” at the start of her visit, which he said would be “a unique opportunity”.

However, following a disappointing speech by Windsor at Dublin Castle on Wednesday, Adams was more critical today.

Speaking in the Dublin parliament, he described the continued refusal of the British government to release all of the files in its possession on the Dublin and Monaghan bombs as “wholly unacceptable”.

On Tuesday, Windsor’s visit took her to the communities most affected by the bombs in Dublin on the anniversary of the 1974 attacks, which claimed the lives of 33 people.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted in the Dail today that the information already supplied by the British government 1974 bomb attacks is ‘all that will be forthcoming’.

“It is claimed by the British that they have already released those files they thought appropriate and do not intend to release any other files on the bombings they have in their possession,” Deputy Adams said.

“Much was said last week by both governments, following the visit of the Queen of England, that the political relationship between this state and Britain had been transformed.

“If that is true then the British Prime Minister, as a good neighbour, should respond positively to the request by all of the parties in the Dail to that information being made available so that victims and families can have closure.”

EIRIGI PROTEST

The largest demonstration of the entire Windsor state visit took place on Wednesday [May 18] with a march on Dublin Castle organised by eirigi.

By the time the march, which began at the site of Robert Emmet’s execution at St Catherine’s Church on Dublin’s Thomas Street, reached the top of Francis Street it has swelled in size to an estimated 350 people.

It was at this point that a detachment of roughly fifty helmet-wearing, baton-yielding Gardai moved rapidly from a side street to form a line along the right-hand side of the march, where they remained for the remainder of the protest.

Hundreds of Gardai positioned themselves on three sides of the demonstration.

“It was a show of strength without any recent parallel in the Twenty-Six Counties, which made a mockery of the suggestion that the state was willing to tolerate opposition to the Windsor visit,” eirigi said.

“The air of intimidation surrounding an entirely peaceful protest was palpable.”

On her final day in Ireland, Windsor was allowed to approach members of the public for the first time in Cork, and was greeted warmly by many.

A Sinn Fein rally to mark Windsor’s visit to the ‘rebel county’ was described as a “counter event” rather than a protest and included the release of black balloons.

However, members of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee staged a noisy protest nearby, blowing whistles and shouting denunciations of British colonialism.

Republican groups also criticised the Dublin government’s move to ban the Irish national flag from being flown during the Windsor visit.

Images of Gardai seizing flags from protestors and binning them have been widely shared on the internet but have not been shown on Irish television.

THE NEEDY ECONOMY?

The visits by Elizabeth Windsor and, just one day later, of US President Barack Obama, have been clearly linked by the 26-County government to its efforts to find allies as it faces a hugely damaging default on its debt obligations.

The desperate efforts of the government to connect the two state visits with a resurgence of economic confidence comes amid flagging support for its policies at home and amid growing tensions with the European Union and European Central Bank.

Since its election in February, the new coalition has maintained with a ‘shut up and shop’ strategy for dealing with public protests over austerity plans and the ever-expanding banking and budgetary crises.

International economic experts now see a partial default on its debts as increasingly likely. Officials fear the move may be viewed by the public as a humiliating declaration of national bankruptcy and lead to public disorder, their biggest nightmare.

Efforts to generate a sense of national well-being on the back of the back-to-back Windsor and Obama visits came to a climax in Dublin yesterday when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appeared to spoof a famous Obama speech.

Kenny induced a mix of cheers and cringes when he introduced Mr Obama and his wife as returning Irish emigrants. Mr Kenny also told the crowds the British royal visit had seen Elizabeth Windsor put the “Irish harp over her heart”, and praised her use of the words “a chairde” [friends] as a cause for hope and optimism.

Alongside the visit of Obama, he claimed the two state visits had finally “closed the circle” [on the issues of partition and emigration] and would lead to “what must be, and what will be, a brighter and more prosperous future”.

But his repetition of a passage in Obama’s triumphant speech at Grant Park in Chicago (on his election as the first African-American President of the US), only replacing Obama’s references to the “dream of our founders” and the “power of democracy” with his own “capacity to restore ourselves, to reinvent ourselves and to prosper”, was described as “indiscreet” and “over the top” by political commentators.

© 2011 Irish Republican News