An Unexpected Visitor
A Letter from Ireland
And so it begins. Today in my inbox was an email from a video doorbell company. I was offered exclusive access to their special coronation weekend sale. Are the gods of the internet warning me that the newly crowned British King could be calling around? Will a new video doorbell allow time to tidy up or turn off the lights and pretend no one is home?
This weekend a new British monarch will be crowned. For a minority in Ireland, this is an important symbol of identity. For others a symbolic reminder of past injustices and inequalities. At times it feels like trolling with wall-to-wall coverage, ads, and reactions.
It is very easy to get caught up in the debate over an issue that will have little to no impact on our lives. Symbols only retain the power that we invest in them. Viewing the monarchy as anachronistic renders it a powerless symbol.
There has been much discussion on the decision by First Minister (Elect) Michelle O’Neill and Speaker of the Assembly Alex Maskey to attend the event. Both are Irish Republicans, committed to ending British jurisdiction and building a new and united Ireland. Alex was interned twice without trial in Long Kesh Prison camp “at the pleasure of her Majesty”. Both will attend as Irish Republicans and return home as Irish Republicans.
Some see the Sinn Féin attendance at the event as an endorsement of the monarchy and British rule in Ireland. It becomes an issue of absolutes, dogma, and difference. That is not how life works.
I have attended services in Free Presbyterian Churches, Mosques, and Hindu temples. These do not make me Protestant, Islamic, or Hindu. I have attended Catholic christenings, weddings, and funerals. This does not mean that I absolve the wrongs of the Catholic church. I attend these things because it is important to my family, friends, and neighbors.
Respect cannot be demanded for ourselves and not extended to others.
There are plenty of reasons from the past to not engage with the monarchy. Those reasons would equally apply to the British government which actually devises and imposes policies in the six counties.
There is one reason to attend; the future.
We are in the process of nation building. A new and united Ireland must be a home for all that share the Island.
There are those of a British identity in a partitioned Ireland. There will be those of a British identity in a United Ireland.
Attending this event is not an endorsement of royalty or British rule. It is a demonstration of respect for those who share our island.
Charles is not my king but he is my neighbor’s king. For those who support the British Monarchy enjoy your weekend. For those of us opposed, work continues to build a new and united Ireland.
I’ll spend Saturday watching GAA and keeping an ear out for a knock at the door just in case someone calls.
Have a great weekend.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.