Socialist Worker

The Queen: heir to brutality in Ireland

Issue No. 2252

T he media has been full of stories about how Ireland was being blessed by the visit of Elizabeth Windsor.

This was presented as the high point of peace and reconciliation.

Anyone who didn’t celebrate the occasion was a malcontent stuck in the past.

But the arrival of British royalty in Ireland is both an insult and an occasion for protest.

Ireland was Britain’s first colony.

Every time the Irish resisted oppression, Britain imposed repression and sectarian division.

This was never a religious or even “ethnic” conflict, but one directly caused by colonialism.

Britain dominated the economy to keep its colony in poverty.

The most devastating result was the famine that began in 1845. Crops failed, but millions would not have starved if the food they’d grown hadn’t been sold for profit by the rich.

Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849 to put on a display of royal extravagance—balls and banquets in the midst of mass starvation.

It was a sick spectacle, but no less so than the current monarch visiting the sites of massacres carried out by British troops.

Then, as now, it was used by the Irish rich in an attempt to tie people to their rule.

When faced with a nationalist revolution after the First World War, Britain’s ruling class came up with a “solution”—to split the country in two.

Again, repression and violence was fostered from the top.

The current queen was nominal head of the forces that murdered 14 civil rights marchers in cold blood on “Bloody Sunday” in Derry in 1972.

It is claimed that the crimes of the past should not be held at the feet of the monarchy.

But the crimes are not historical. The queen is the head of the British state, a state which is still at war for the spoils of imperialism.

Socialists and anti-war campaigners protested against the queen’s visit in a number of cities in Ireland on Tuesday of this week. Theirs is a tradition worth celebrating.

When Queen Victoria celebrated her jubilee in 1897 the Irish revolutionary socialist James Connolly organised a march in Dublin. The protesters threw a coffin draped in black cloth with the words British Empire on it into the River Liffey.

May the same happen to the queen this week.

To read James Connolly on royal visits to Ireland go to

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What We Think
Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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