A year-long republican campaign in Armagh appears to have succeeded in its bid to stop the city being branded as a “UK City of Culture”.
Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland, who championed the campaign against the unionist title, said people in the town had been delighted to hear that the bid had been defeated.
“For over one year Revolutionary Socialist Republicans in Armagh and surrounding areas had been campaigning against the British state’s attempt to culturally colonise Armagh as a British City,” they said.
“Republicans had set an alternative campaign seeking the designation of Armagh as an Irish city of resistance.”
As part of its campaign, local activists took part in an unusual protest against the designation as part of the town’s St Patrick’s Day parade. Activists wore masks of Boris Johnson and the English Queen with “St. Patrick” accosting them with a hurl. They unveiled a banner with the question “Armagh – Irish city of resistance or British UK city of culture?”
Local unionists described that as “offensive” but didn’t contradict the point of the protest, that the designation of Armagh as a British city would have been offensive and divisive to the majority nationalist town.
According to the British government website, the UK city of culture is a “UK-wide programme, developed in collaboration with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
In line with a clear unionist agenda, the first “UK city of culture” in 2013 was another Irish city, Derry, which like Armagh is a predominantly nationalist town. Nationalist politicians in Derry had controversially promoted the designation of the city as a British city of culture, citing the potential for funding from the British state.
The ‘UK city’ effort for Armagh was also linked to a planned visit to the city by England’s Queen Elizabeth, which was subsequently abandoned ahead of planned protests.
“In the end, the threat of protests and disturbances in Armagh, the Irish city of resistance was enough for the powers at large to rethink their attempt to culturally colonise an Irish city which has a long and proud tradition of resisting British imperialism,” AIA said.
The group also said it took part in protests this week against the visit to Tipperary and Waterford of Prince Charles, the royal commander-in-chief of the British Army regiment responsible for massacres in Derry and Belfast in the 1970s.
At a time of increasing hardship in Ireland, the three-day royal visit of Charles Windsor and his wife is reported to have cost Irish taxpayers over 1.5 million euro. That cost came despite Britain sending what was described as a “royal protection squad” and other military intelligence specialists to direct Irish police.
AIA described the visit as “an attempt to normalise the illegal imperialist occupation of Ireland”. They staged a “direct action” protest within sight of the Windsors, despite the tight security.
“Members of AIA displaying a large banner and placards against the royal visit got within sight of the English Royal parasites before being surrounded by up to 30 free state police, including armed members of the special branch, Ireland’s Political Police,” they said.
“Clearly embarrassed by the ingenuity of the Republican protests and the demonstration of Revolutionary Republicans standing proudly against imperialism.
“Today’s protests demonstrates that there are Revolutionary Republicans in every corner of Ireland willing to stand up and oppose the British Occupation of our country.”