The sycophantic feting of the world’s most powerful leaders in the British-occupied north of Ireland this week has disgraced politicians in both parts of the island.
Despite a concerted effort to scare protestors away with warnings of ‘anarchist chaos’, thousands gathered in one of Ireland’s most remote towns to demand action on social justice, peace and the environment.
And while the G8 leaders discussed their selfish military and economic agendas, such as a military campaign in Syria and a new global tax regime, over a million marched against inequality in Brazil, Turkey and across Europe.
But within the razor-wire fortress across County Fermanagh, politicians of both the Belfast and Dublin regimes took part in an abject display of servility, seeking to curry favour with the leaders of western capitalism, imperialism and exploitation.
British Prime Minister David Cameron revelled in what he claimed was the acceptance of the partition of Ireland as “normal”. Speaking on Wednesday, he said the other G8 leaders had been impressed by the north of Ireland which was “a remarkable part of our country”.
‘BRITISH ISLES CHEESE’
The Old Etonian also couldn’t resist tweeting the menu of Monday’s Lough Erne banquet meal, including crab and prawn salad; braised shin of beef; Bushmills Whiskey custard, and topped off with ‘a selection of cheeses from the British Isles’.
The 26-County Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who took part in events on the basis of Dublin’s Presidency of the EU, focussed entirely on glad-handing the G8 leaders and posing for photographs.
World hunger, injustice or the destruction of the environment were not represented at the banquet table in the five-star resort. But at the security fence several miles away, and at other protests in Belfast and elsewhere, the voice of republicans, socialists and progressives were clearly heard.
On Saturday, two thousand marched in Belfast as Ireland’s trade unions demonstrated alongside traditional left-wing and republican groups. The northern chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Pamela Dooley, said there was an obligation on society to stand together “to demand a different and better way” and a change from the “consequences of a corrupt capitalist system bereft of moral standards”.
“This is not democracy,” she said. “This is not compliance with human rights obligations in our own jurisdiction, let alone around the world. This is hypocrisy and greed which holds the seven billion human beings on this planet in contempt.”
WINDS OF CHANGE
The first day of the summit, Monday, began in the early hours when the Gael Force protest art group erected a sign on Belfast’s Black Mountain to welcome the summit with a giant sign reading “WAR CRIMINALS”.
And later, as US President Barack Obama delivered a ‘message of peace’ at a carefully choreographed public relations event in the city’s Waterfront Hall, a protest by the Republican Network for Unity had to be pushed off the streets.
Outside Belfast City Hall, RNU activists were cornered and sealed off. Some had items of clothing physically pulled off them, while one of the group was arrested and dragged off in a prison van without any explanation.
The group later said that 25 of them had been subjected to individual street interrogations “at the hands of officers with English accents”, before being photographed and released with a warning not to go near the Waterfront venue.
Meanwhile, in Fermanagh, questions were being raised about a police agenda in which fifty million pounds was handed to Crown force securocrats. The money was ostensibly to be used to defend against hordes of anarchists -- but nothing could disguise the reality that only a handful of beatniks and tourists had turned up at the ‘official’ protest campsite.
The main event in Enniskillen on Monday evening saw some two thousand progressives gather in a carnival-like atmosphere, albeit surrounded and watched in an increasingly bizarre manner by thousands of police.
Members of the US Security service were reported to have purchased a fleet of tractors for agents to drive around the area, disguised as farmers, in order to appear inconspicuous.
A different camouflage operation had earlier been deployed to disguise empty and abandoned buildings as thriving businesses and attractive homes, postered over so that the VIP visitors and media could be shielded from any signs of poverty or austerity.
NEW WORLD ORDER?
At the the Lough Erne security fence on Monday, as the protest march reached its inevitable conclusion, People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann pointed out the financial incongruities of the G8 event.
He said: “How many nurses could be employed for a year by the amount of money that has been spent? How many millions of pounds have been spent on this and for what - to keep us in order.”
Outside the razor-wire fence, the colourful and good-humoured demonstration of over a dozen republican and socialist organisations, including eirigi, the IRSP, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the 1916 societies, all demanded to be heard.
But with some ingenuity, some 200 republicans and socialists symbolically overcame and tramped down the wire that the Crown forces had strung across the Irish countryside, and flooded across the forbidden line.
The subsequent confrontation with armoured riot police was met with self-discipline and defiance. The stand-off served to expose the true nature of the policing operation before both sides withdrew.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s youth wing held a small protest in west Belfast billed as a ‘freedom camp’, on land once occupied by the Andersonstown RUC barracks.
In an evident contradiction, however, the Sinn Fein leadership said it supported the summit.
“I think we’ve had incredible international exposure - it sends a powerful message to the world about how things have been transformed,” said Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
And in an apparent reference to protestors, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams criticised “begrudgery” and “negativity”, adding that his policy was “hope and belief”.
But Socialist Party TD Clare Daly slammed the Irish response to the Obamas’ visit as “prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head”.
In a blistering attack on the Taoiseach and his cabinet in the Dail, she said that she had asked herself “whether you were going to deck the Cabinet out in leprechaun hats decorated with a bit of stars and stripes to really mark abject humiliation.”
Daly went on to slam President Obama as a “war criminal” who had been stalling the Geneva peace talks in order to arm one side of Syria’s civil war -- while lecturing about peace at the Waterfront Hall -- “and to hell with the thousands more who’ll lose their lives, or the tens of thousands who will be displaced.”
She also referred to the servility of Dublin officials and 26 County journalists in dealing with Michelle Obama and her two daughters, who were touring Dublin as her husband took part in the G8 Summit.
At one point, in an event apparently staged for media consumption, the family had lunch with U2 rock star Bono.
“It’s really hard to know which is worst,” said Daly, “whether it’s the outpourings of the Obamas themselves or the sycophantic falling over them by sections of the media and the political establishment.”
A chagrined Taoiseach Kenny said Daly’s comments were “disgraceful”.
“I think they do down the pride of Irish people all over the world who are more than happy to see this island being host to the G8”, he said.