Calls for change at Coronation protests
Calls for change at Coronation protests


A hostile reaction to Sinn Féin’s attendance at the coronation of King Charles last weekend could change the political landscape ahead of local council elections in the North.

Protests took place as Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and Alex Maskey paid their respects at the crowning of the new English monarch, despite his claim to rule over the northeast of the island.

Over 100 republicans and socialists gathered alongside a heavy press presence at Belfast’s International Wall on the Falls Road as the Coronation was underway.

Organisers Lasair Dhearg said the protest was “to send a message to the media and state political parties that we do not accept poverty, occupation and monarchy”.

Signs which read ‘Not Our King’ and ‘Neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland’ were erected in key locations in Belfast, Derry, Newry and elsewhere.

Similar demos also took place at Lifford, on the British imposed border in Ireland, and at the GPO in Dublin, the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The protests heard chants of “Ní Ár Rí” and “Ní hé ár Ríne é”, both meaning “Not our King”.

As she left Westminster Abbey after Charles and Camilla were crowned in an extravaganza which cost a quarter of a billion pounds, Michelle O’Neill said she had attended to “show respect”.

The Sinn Féin vice-president stressed her attendance, with party colleague Alex Maskey, who was invited as Speaker of the Assembly, was “for all those people at home”.

She said: “Well obviously I wanted to be here. We live in changing times and it was the respectful thing to do, to show respect and to be here for all those people at home, who I had said I would be a first minister for all. Attendance here is about honouring that and fulfilling my promise.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also took part in the celebrations alongside O’Neill and other Irish politicians. But against a backdrop of rising poverty rates and growing calls for justice for victims of state collusion, there was anger at the appearance of nationalist leaders paying homage to the Commander-in-Chief of Britain’s occupying forces.

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he understood republican opposition to the move but that Michelle O’Neill was “demonstrating her commitment to be a Minister for everyone”.

“Republicans are against unelected hierarchies of all kinds, including monarchies. That would be the case even if, God forbid, there was a native Irish one,” he said.

The events in London came just weeks after the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Ageement brought renewed attention to the failure of the British government to deliver the peaceful pathway to Irish reunification promised under the deal, and amid a continuing unionist boycott of the powersharing institutions it created.

The focus on issues of sovereignty and inequality could alter the outcome of local elections next week, which Sinn Féin and the SDLP traditionally dominate on the nationalist side.

Five independent republicans linked to the 1916 Societies – Marian Vincent, Barry Monteith, Kevin Mcelvogue, Dan Kerr, and Teresa Quinn – are contesting the council elections in the republican heartland of Mid-Ulster in what is being described as “the drive for five”.

Councillor Barry Monteith, who is seeking re-election in Dungannon, wrote: “There is money for coronations and banquets for the elite. There is money for war and military posturing. There is money for the farce of Stormont. But no money for some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

At a protest in Dublin, Anti-Imperialist Action urged republicans to reject Sinn Féin and its “recognition of the English monarchy’s illegal claim over Ireland”.

Marchers made their way along Abbey Street to the GPO on O’Connell Street carrying a life sized effigy of Charles Windsor and a guillotine.

They were led by a banner that read ‘We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland’ and portraits of Bobby Sands, late Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan and 1916 martyr James Connolly. At the GPO, the event began with the singing of ‘Go On Home British Soldiers’.

“Is Charles Windsor, the Commander in Chief of the British Army your King?”, the organisers asked.

“Do you recognise his illegal claim over Ireland? Do you recognise the forced partition and British Military Occupation of our Country?”

The inclusion of the Parachute Regiment in Charles’ coronation service was criticised by families of the regiment’s massacre victims in Belfast and Derry. All four battalions of the regiment were given a special place of honour at the event, as the King is its honorary colonel-in-chief and regularly wears the regimental uniform.

Irish language activists also hit out at the Charles’ recitiation of lines in the Irish language as part of the ceremony.

County Donegal Gaeltacht councillor Michael Mac Giolla Easbuig said that British imperialism had engineered the “demise of our ancient language and culture” in order to facilitate their “political, economic, social and cultural subjugation of Ireland”.

There was also criticism of the broadcast of four hours of coverage of the cermeony by Ireland’s publicly owned State brodcaster, RTE. People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy asked “why on earth” the State broadcaster would be “spending four hours on a Saturday displaying this so-called coronation”.

Mr Murphy also noted some republicans had said they would attend the coronation on the grounds of “reaching out to the unionist community”.

“We think it is perfectly possible and necessary to build a united socialist movement of working-class people from Catholic, Protestant and non-religious backgrounds, not on the basis of this sort of anachronistic and hated institution, but on the basis of the interest of ordinary people and the need for a socialist Ireland and a socialist world,” he said.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, who has also slammed Sinn Féin’s attendance at the Coronation, called for the removal of a statue of England’s Prince Albert, the husband of British Queen Victoria, the ‘Famine Queen’, from the grounds of the Dublin parliament.

Mr Tóibín invited Charles to pay for the statue of Albert to be shipped to England.

“The reign of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert over Ireland was an unmitigated humanitarian disaster, from which Ireland has not recovered from yet in terms of population – yet we have a statute at the rear of Leinster House in Prince Albert’s honour,” he said.

The Aontú leader said there was a demand for change by voters in both parts of Ireland. The party, which was founded in 2019, is fielding its largest number of candidates ever in the upcoming local government elections in the North.

“Never before has politics in the north of Ireland demanded a new opposition party to face down the political system that’s not working for the people,” Mr Tóibín said.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2023 Irish Republican News