Current Affairs Politics

Smells Like Victory

The British head of state honours Ireland’s Fenian Dead at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin, 2011

Controversy, controversy, controversy.

Or at least what the “media” in all its wisdom deems to be controversial. And yet again Britain’s newspapers and journalists look at Ireland down the wrong end of the telescope (though some of our local folk are not all that much better) .

Martin McGuinness is not meeting the British head of state. The British head of state is meeting Martin McGuinness. There is a difference and a crucial one at that.

Last year Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visited the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, lay a wreath and bowed her head to our Fenian dead. Dead Fenians. Dead Republicans. Dead ‘RA men and women.

It was an acknowledgement, an acceptance and a recognition of legitimacy. The British nation symbolically acknowledged and accepted Ireland’s independence. Furthermore it recognised the legitimacy of the struggle for independence and all that was done in its name. The United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Fenian Brotherhood, Clann na nGael, the Irish Republican Army. Each and every one is remembered in that hollowed place.

And the British state in the figure of its constitutional head came, bowed and accepted that we were right – and they were wrong.

So, over a year later, another acceptance. But this time of a more recent struggle. For what is the British head of state meeting a former Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA’s former Chief of Staff, but a further acceptance of the legitimacy of the latest armed struggle?

The Long War was a just one. Perhaps even a necessary one for the neighbouring nations of Ireland and Britain to have come so far. For politics and peaceful protest would never have torn down the Northern apartheid state, the last remnants of the British colony in Ireland shrunk to its tattered Northern Pale. And the British tacitly acknowledge this.

So let Progressive Republicans and Nationalists take heart rather than dismay. The glass is half full not half empty, as some ever-pessimistic Irish see it.

The British are stooping down low.

Our day has come.

And in the years ahead there will be many more to follow.

9 comments on “Smells Like Victory

  1. Let’s also not forget the Irish Citizens’ Army led by the the great Scotsman of Irish heritage – James Connolly (whose struggle was fully supported by another great, anti-imperialist Scot in Scotland – John MacLean; and, latterly, until his recent death, Matt Lygate).

    With Scottish independence following on sister Ireland’s, may the British state be reduced to a rump that Wales and Cornwall and Man finally abandon, and a Celtic confederation, finally, replaces, and in which each constituent nation and its peoples are sovereign.

    • Agreed. A Celtic Council along the lines of the Scandinavian Council or the Baltic Council is the logical next step. Co-operation would benefit all our nations, as would the creation of a solid mutually supportive voting block in the EU.

  2. Right you are Seamas, the British head of state is meeting Martin McGuinness, not the other way around. It *is* an evolution.
    However I don’t share the views of those that this somehow belittles England, or that Irish, Scottish independence is not good for England: in the long run, having a political system that fits the people it represents is more profitable for everyone than having control over large geographical areas (we are not all farmers anymore!) because it allows for long term planning.

    • I quite agree. The British are slowly coming to their senses in relation to Ireland. That process can only continue to grow in the years ahead. The day when both nations can work in friendship, fully free of any sort of present or past acrimony is approaching.

      I look forward to it.

      And an independent England! 😉

  3. I have to disagree with your analysis of the visit. Elizabeth Windsor is here as part of the jubilee celebrations for her 60 years as head of the “United Kingdom”. As part of these celebrations she is doing a tour around her dominion, which unfortunately includes the North-East of Ireland. An event was arranged where the First and Deputy First Ministers of the Stormont administration could meet her while she is here (or she could meet them, it’s semantics as far as I’m concerned).

    You could argue that her meeting McGuinness is in some way a recognition of the struggle his organisation took part in, but I think a stronger argument could be made that the meeting in fact recognises that an organisation that once represented the deadliest threat to the British establishment in Ireland (and arguably the entire British state) is now very much a part of that establishment, that the meeting represents ‘the Pacification of the Provisionals’ as a friend put it to me.

    • Thanks for the Comment, Séamus. I appreciate your point of view and sympathise with it. Though I have a different opinion on the meeting of the deputy First Minister at the Co-Operate Ireland event with our President and the visiting British head of state I understand and respect why other Republicans find it unacceptable. Those voices need to be heard. I believe Sinn Féin has singularly failed in that duty and must make redress in the coming weeks and months.

      A united Republican Movement, embracing all views and all opinions, must become a priority for all Republicans from now on.

      The outreach to the British minority on the island of Ireland and Britain itself must NOT negate the needs and wishes of our own Republican Community, in all its diverse forms.

  4. tomasoflatharta

    If this is “victory” I would not fancy a defeat – perhaps we misunderstood your sense of Orwellian humour and topsy-turvy meanings – next step coalition government with the likes of Fine Gael – the 26 County equal of the DUP / no principle too important to throw overboard: that is the main xharacteristic of today’s Sinn Fein.

    • Coalition with Labour or a Fianna Fáil Mark II but I doubt Fine Gael.

      I agree with many of your general criticisms of Sinn Féin. It is not my party, and indeed I doubt I would fit their profile. I would be a little too radical I suspect. As I have said before, I value and welcome all opinions here. Every voice needs to be heard. Thank you for taking the time to Comment.

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