Sinn Féin is struggling to convince republicans that it has not broken away from its roots after it agreed to send First Minister-elect, Michelle O’Neill, to attend the Coronation of Charles as King.
While the party insisted that the move showed “leadership” at “a time of great change”, there was a furious response on social media to the news, both from those inside and outside the party.
The move marks a complete u-turn from September, when the party declared that accession ceremonies “are intended for those whose political allegiance is to the British Crown. Sinn Féin will not be in attendance at these events.”
On Wednesday, the party confirmed that Ms O’Neill and colleague Alex Maskey will attend next month’s £100m royalist extravaganza on its behalf.
“We are living in a time of great change,” Ms O’Neill said, in a statement.
“A time to respect our differing and equally legitimate aspirations, a time to firmly focus on the future and the opportunities that the next decade will bring.
“I am an Irish republican. I also recognise there are many people on our island for whom the Coronation is a hugely important occasion.
“I am committed to being a first minister for all, representing the whole community, building good relations between the people of these islands, and advancing peace and reconciliation through respectful and mature engagement.”
There was a hostile response across the nationalist political spectrum, while Ms O’Neill’s claim to still remain a republican were rejected and ridiculed.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said Sinn Féin and Ms O’Neill are wrong to attend the Coronation.
“The problem is the British King claims jurisdiction over a significant part of Ireland. Michelle O’Neill will be attending the Coronation of a King that claims jurisdiction over her as a subject and over her country.
“A core tenant of republicanism has been that the British monarchy should not be the head of state of any part of Ireland.
“This is a reasonable and fair political objective and one that republicans have held dear from Wolfe Tone, to Robert Emmet to Pearse. It’s clear that Sinn Féin and Michelle O’Neill have diverged significantly from this republican political philosophy.
“Sinn Féin will jettison almost anything in their quest for power,” he said.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party said it “shared the anger and disgust of thousands of Irish people” at what it said was a “disgraceful” decision to attend the Coronation of “the British head of state and commander of its armed forces”.
“Not only is this decision a complete abandonment of basic republican principles, it is a slap in the face of all who have suffered and lost in the generations old struggle against monarchy, empire and privilege.
“With this move, Sinn Féin have lost the right to call themselves a republican party and do not deserve the allegiance of the Republican working class.
Republican Sinn Féin also condemned the plan to honour the new British King who it said was “responsible for the murders of so many people in the Six Counties”.
“The world knows the pain and suffering caused by the Crown Forces in Ireland”, they said, but Sinn Féin would be “joining with other world elites in banquets... enjoying lavish surroundings as they embrace their paymaster just a short time after the anniversaries of our fallen comrades Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes; standing shoulder to shoulder with medal-bearing generals of the British army, toasting the Coronation of the invaders’ king.”
Meanwhile, loyalist paramilitaries have been raising UVF flags across Belfast alongside British and royalist flags ahead of the Coronation, while the DUP have dismissed calls for reciprocation to Sinn Fein’s move.
DUP Assembly member Brian Kingston described Ms O’Neill’s decision as a “step in the right direction” but called on Sinn Féin to endorse Coronation events at council level and the flying of the British flag on “all publicly-funded buildings”.
On the day of the Coronation, protests are to be organised by republican and socialist groups, including one in Lifford, County Donegal, where an “an anti-monarchy rally” is due to be held by the 1916 Societies in Lifford, County Donegal.
Mid Ulster independent councillor Barry Monteith said the event would be a “demonstration against the normalisation of the British royal family that continues to claim Irish territory”.
Anti-Imperialist Action Ireland is also organising a public protest in Dublin on May 6 “to oppose the presence of Britain’s chief imperialist in our country” and “to send a clear message that Britain has no right to be in Ireland and English Royals are not welcome”.