Mick Hall views with disdain the decision by Sinn Fein to embrace British royalty. Mick Hall blogs @ Organised Rage.
|Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Paul Maskey (second right) attended a protest over Prince Charles visit to Ireland.|
When Gerry Adams took the hand of the heir to the British throne it was for an Irish republican an unprecedented act. True Martin McGuinness had met the English queen, but he did so as deputy first minister in one of her devolved governments. Adams acted as head of Sinn Féin, an Irish republican party. It is no exaggeration to claim if the PIRA had not been stood down Mr Adams behaviour would have been considered a treasonable act and a good few Republicans will still regard it as just that.
There is little doubt his behaviour has divided opinion within Sinn Féin and caused hurt to many of those who have been victims between 1969-2007 of the British military campaign in the north of Ireland. Having failed to get justice due to a brick wall of British government obscurification, which saw David Cameron and senior members of the British army apologising profusely for crimes like Bloody Sunday, while adamantly refusing to take the next logical step and bring those responsible for these killings before a court of law.
This argument might have held water if the UK had treated former PIRA volunteers who committed crimes in a similar way, but they have not. Former members of the IRA, some of whom are OAPs today have been brought before the courts for alleged crimes going back decades.
Prince Charles visit to Ireland was ill timed and ill judged, unless that is those who organised it regarded it as a victory parade, a royal progress of the type which historically English royal families made after pacifying an enemy to remind the people who was boss and who was in control.
Admittedly I might be looking at Windsor's itinerary with a jaundiced eye, but for me his visit to Ireland had that stench about it. Why else would the former home of Castlereagh been on his agenda, a man who as Chief Secretary for Ireland was involved in putting down the Irish Rebellion of 1798 which was led by Irish Republican icon Wolfe Tone: who would have been put to death on the signature of the chief secretary if he hadn't evaded the hangman's noose.
As far as Ireland and Windsor are concerned there is history; he is Colonel in Chief of the Parachute regiment which has a notorious reputation in the north of Ireland, having been involved in some of the most controversial and violent events of the troubles.
Not only were the Parachute Regiment responsible for the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march, killing fourteen of them.
Six months earlier on the 9th August 1971, after interment without trial was introduced by the sectarian Stormont administration led by Brian Faulkner. British soldiers with the Parachute Regiment to the fore entered the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast, raiding homes and rounding up men, having been ordered to shock and stun the civilian population. Young and old were shot and beaten as they were dragged from their homes without reason. During this three day period when the Paras had the area in shutdown, 11 residents were brutally murdered.
All 11 unarmed civilians were murdered by members of the Parachute Regiment, which Prince Charles is colonel in chief of having been gifted the post in the late 1970s. One of their victims was a well liked parish priest and another was a 45 year old mother of eight children. No investigations were carried out and no member of the British Army has ever been held to account.
So what made Gerry Adams publicly shake the hand of a man who is Colonel in chief of a British army regiment which had such a ghastly and blood stained reputation when serving in Ireland. After all these awful events did not happen centuries ago but within living memory.
It is difficult to say as apart for a small coterie of longtime comrades who act as his advisers he's inscrutable to the rest of us, which is understandable, as you didn't remain a alive for long in his former job without being extremely careful.
Nevertheless he is human and we know he makes mistakes. He must rue the day when he failed to say "no comment" when first asked whether he had ever been in the IRA. Given even the dogs in the street knew he had been a senior IRA commander, denying this fact seems an especially silly thing to say. Perhaps he was just having another bad day when he met the heir to the English throne, who knows?
The officially Adams line was he, Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Féin representatives met with Prince Charles to discuss:
the need for the entire process to move forward, particularly in regard to those who have suffered, those who have been bereaved.
Both he and we expressed our regret for what happened from 1968 onwards. We were of a common mind and the fact that the meeting took place, it obviously was a big thing for him to do and a big thing for us to do.
The question he now needs to answer is will this common ground help bring respite and closure to those the Parachute regiment murdered in Ballymurphy and Derry.
When expressing regret did Windsor apologise for the behaviour of members of the regiment he is Colonel in chief of when they rampaged through Ballymurphy like a howling mob acting under orders.
If not what was this common ground Gerry talks up so approvingly?
As an internationalist* doesn't he have a responsibility to expose the British monarchy for what it is? A reactionary institution which is long passed its sell by date and which has no place in a modern democracy worthy of the name. Is it the job of Irish republicans these days to wait on the heir to the English crown, cap in hand in a line of so called 'dignitaries?'
This may be unfair, but we live in times when reaction is the dominant force and if its to be defeated every opportunity must be taken to encourage people to join the struggle. For the life of me I cannot see how playing footsie with royalty behind closed doors encourages this one iota.
- In 1960 Fidel Castro went to New York for the opening session of the United Nations and was originally put up in Hotel Shelburne in Midtown Manhattan which is situated in the city's business district of the city. Fidel was having none of it and quickly marched his entourage across town to Harlem's Theresa Hotel, and quickly began using it as his rostrum during his stay. By deciding to stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem, then a run down part of New York City with a mainly black working class population, many of whom lived on the bread line. He was making a political point which wasn't lost on Capital and their political representatives. Castro was placing himself internationally in the trench of the dispossessed and millions loved him for it and many of still do. This act gave us courage and hope when combating forces which can seem impregnable.