Tensions rise in Armagh ahead of partition event

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A large-scale British military operation is underway in the town of Armagh ahead of a provocative commemoration of the partition of Ireland involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson. England’s Queen Elizabeth has announced she has withdrawn from tomorrow’s event, citing ill health.

Scores of top-ranking officials from the British administration are due to attend one of the largest public salutes to British rule in the north of Ireland in recent decades.

Amid last minute orchestrations by the organisers, Armagh residents have said they are already under siege. Since Monday, armoured PSNI vehicles have been establishing ‘exclusion zones’ in the town, while unmarked British military vehicles have also been deployed. Larger movements of British Army vehicles in the Belfast area have also been seen as evidence that a major military operation is underway.

Earlier this month, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins drew attention to the one-sided and territorial nature of the commemoration when he announced he would not be attending, generating a wave of public support.

The subsequent decision to attend by two Dublin government ministers, Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney and Jack Chambers of Fianna Fáil, sparked significant anger within both parties.

Irish church leaders have also faced condemnation for providing cover for a unionist propaganda event. Styled as a multi-denominational service, it takes place tomorrow at the Protestant (Church of Ireland) Cathedral in the predominately nationalist town of Armagh.

A series of events are currently being held by unionists and British officials to mark the partition of Ireland by the Anglo-Irish Treaty 100 years ago. The treaty brought about the disastrous division of Ireland into two statelets when Irish negotiators were forced to agree to sever the island under threat of “immediate and terrible war”. It plunged the South into a devastating civil war.

One of the more provocative ‘NI100’ (Northern Ireland 100) celebrations so far was a reconstruction of the actions of the murderous paramilitary B-Specials police, who brutally enforced unionist domination in the North for almost five decades. Participants in the town of Coleraine in County Derry dressed in full B-Special attire on Saturday and staged a mock road checkpoint using a vintage car. The event recalled one of the more shocking actions of the force, the infamous attack on civil rights marchers at the nearby village of Burntollet in 1969.

The triumphalist nature of the current celebrations was confirmed today with reports that Boris Johnson is to personally attend tomorrow’s event in Armagh. In the context of his government’s recent anti-Irish prejudice and bad faith, news of his attendance added insult to the local nationalist population and the Irish people as a whole.

A protest vigil is being organised for all republicans, nationalists and others to meet up in the town tomorrow morning. The 32 County Sovereignty committee said the meeting point for the vigil would be at the Irish and Local Studies Library, 39c Abbey Street, Armagh, at 9.30am on Thursday 21st October. They said the gathering would recall “all those who have suffered as a direct result of the British occupation and partition of our country”, and welcomed “all relevant banners and posters”.

A spokesperson for Anti-Imperialist Action, which is also protesting the commemoration, said “Britain has no right to be in Ireland and should get out now. The only comments the Irish people want to hear from British imperialists is a declaration of their intent to withdraw from our country.

“The illegal occupation and partition of Ireland will never be accepted,” they added. “History has shown so long as British imperialist interference in Ireland continues, so will resistance.”

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