Somhairle, Béal Feirste
107 years ago to the day Irish republicans were in the final stages of a desperate fight for an independent Irish Republic. A republic free from British imperialist, monarchical rule.
Somehow some of the “republicans” of today have gotten a bit lost along the way with regards to what that meant. Only this week, Michelle O’Neill has decided to attend the coronation of Charles Windsor in London. Ultimately this is yet another one of the concessions Sinn Féin has made over the years; whether it be accepting the rebranded RUC, or implementing Tory austerity in the north this should not be too surprising for anyone who has been following the direction of the party.
This of course comes only a few days after Colm Gildernew was singing the praises of the economic potential of the status quo in the six counties. It certainly begs the question what sort of “republicans” are now making economic arguments for continued occupation and hobnobbing with monarchs.
Breaking the connection
Ultimately there is more to republicanism than being a united Irelander. Plenty such groups have come and gone, often being more critical of republicanism than some unionists.
Wolfe Tone, the founding-father of Irish republicanism, spoke of his ambition to “to break the connection with England” – surely a foundational aspiration for Republicans. How can so-called republicans sincerely think that attending the coronation of a British monarch does anything to achieve this?
There are some who argue that this is somehow a “master-stroke” of Sinn Féin genius, a snubbing of the DUP, or that this is somehow all part of a grand plan. The reality is that Michelle O’Neill was invited; her attendance is on Britain’s terms. If her presence at the coronation could somehow ever undermine British interests in Ireland she would never have been invited.
I suppose to say that this isn’t part of a plan would be wrong. It is part of the ongoing effort by Sinn Féin to show that they are a safe pair of hands who can be trusted to run the north – and south – and who won’t actually do anything to disrupt the status quo. This comes after years of Sinn Féin signalling to landlords – of which the party has its fair share – and businesses that their bottom lines won’t be harmed by a Sinn Féin government.
What should republicans do?
In this sense it is an absolutely logical thing for Sinn Féin to do; after all, James Connolly highlighted the affinity that capitalists have for monarchs:
“Let the capitalist and landlord class flock to exalt him; he is theirs; in him they see embodied the idea of caste and class; they glorify him and exalt his importance that they might familiarise the public mind with the conception of political inequality, knowing well that a people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom.”
While the Sinn Féin leadership is in London on 6 May celebrating the coronation of Charles Windsor, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, the Republicans of Ireland should be on the street marking the occasion with the only response it deserves: protest.