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Irish Left Review >>
Re-Britishing the Irish State
rights and freedoms |
Monday January 05, 2009 19:43 by Tom Cooper - Irish National Congress
The Irish State, by way of government indifference, is moving stealthily towards rejoining the British Commonwealth. This must be confronted and reversed before it is too late. We can and should be on friendly and neighbourly terms with Great Britain, but as equals, not as a lesser or subservient state. We are a sovereign Republic, not a British council.
Sooner, rather than later, society in the Irish State must make fundamental decisions regarding its political identity, ethos and future policy directions. Will we continue along the path of nation building, slowly and painfully asserting a distinct post-colonial Irish identity in alliance with our European neighbours, or do we instead see ourselves as part of the so-called 'Anglosphere', re-aligning ourselves ever more closely with Great Britain?
This is a serious question, and is posed because recent actions and trends suggest that the Irish state is involved in a significant shift away from the type of political identity that has been projected since the establishment of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. I refer to a process whereby the Irish state is changing the way it projects itself politically and symbolically in order to accommodate aspects of political Britishness. The distinction between what is Irish and what is British is so blurred as to make the two terms synonymous with each other.
On December 21st 2008, Minister Martin Cullen, speaking on the RTE 2FM Sports Bag programme said he would like to see a Dublin soccer team playing in the UK premiership. The fact that no such league exists does not appear to be a deterrent to Mr Cullen's wish list for 2009. Presumably Minister Cullen was referring to the English Premiership. I know of no faster way to kill domestic soccer in Ireland than to have a team from Dublin participating in the English Premiership. Not to be outdone, Dick Bourke, chairman of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation called for an invitation to be extended to Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to visit Ireland as an "appropriate gesture to mark the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria's visit to Kerry". Surely we can be more imaginative in commemorating the visit of the 'Famine Queen' to Ireland in 1861?. Such a visit, if it takes place, will be used to 'test the water', so to speak, and to psychologically 'soften up' Irish public opinion in advance of a full state visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. All the indications are that an invite will be issued by President Mc Aleese in 2009.
Also in 2008, Minister Eamon O' Cuiv sanctioned a grant of €250,000 to the Orange Order. Such largess to a blatantly sectarian organisation, particularly in these recessionary times, is an affront to those who are made endure unwelcome Orange marches in their areas.
In the past five years or so, the British state has been bestowing titles and honours upon selected Irish citizens as if they were her own British subjects. Bono, front man for U2 and Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, have both been made "Knight Commanders of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire". Not only should this be seen as an infringement on Irish sovereignty, but also an attack on the republican and egalitarian ethos of Bunreacht Na hÉireann. The awarding of these 'titles of nobility' must be seen as part of the cultural re-incorporation of this state into the British sphere of influence and one must question the motives of those who accept such archaic badges of post-colonial subservience. It is my view that no Irish citizen should be allowed accept a British 'title of nobility' unless they are prepared to renounce their Irish citizenship and
surrender their Irish passport.
Recently, Irish Navy personnel participated alongside their British counterparts in the Royal Navy to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Admiral Nelson's defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, while the Irish Air Corp, alongside the Royal Air Force, took part in the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Irish state now participates with the Royal British legion in Remembrance Day ceremonies, and once again British military funerals, with the pomp and pageant of the British military ethos, are taking place on Irish soil. This amounts to no less than a surrender of sovereign control over State ceremonial to our former colonial masters.
In August 2006 Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell, speaking at the annual Michael Collins/Arthur Griffith commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery, posed the possibility of a future Irish Government agreeing to a role for the British Monarch in a 'New Ireland', perhaps even as joint head of state. Such a measure would mean the Irish state rejoining the British Commonwealth. Mr Mitchell's proposal is probably the first time that any Dublin politician has openly challenged the continued existance of the Republic of Ireland state seperate from Britain. A political taboo has been broken, so to speak.
The Irish Government has a duty to uphold the value and dignity of Irish citizenship, and to oppose any British encroachment into our political and civic space. It could be argued that our elected representatives are not only failing to uphold Irish neutrality, but are participating in the erosion of our sovereignty.