This is a guest column written by Joan McKiernan on the occasion of celebrations in Britain, Ireland and elsewhere on the longevity of the UK’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth, whose reign has now earned praise from the strangest of all political quarters, viz the current leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, whose effusive veneration of the world’s oldest hereditary leader has been greeted variously with a mixture of shock, horror, anger, amazement and delight.
‘Many people in Britain but only some in Ireland are celebrating the British monarch’s seventy years of a life lived in regal luxury, supported by her taxpaying subjects. While the usual Irish politicians rushed to congratulate the British Queen, amongst those heaping praise on her this time were people who not so long ago reviled her and her government.
‘Prominent amongst them was Mary Lou McDonald, the current head of Sinn Fein, the formerly republican party, which (peace process or not) still acts as the political wing of the IRA. It was the IRA which killed the Queen’s cousin Lord Mounbatten and which tried to kill her during a previous trip to NI and it was Martin McGuinness as IRA Chief of Staff who ordered the death of Mounbatten. Not long afterwards McGuinness invariably stood at the top of the line to shake the Queen’s hand, or to meet her in secret at Hillsborough Castle.
‘This time, Mary Lou rushed to congratulate the English monarch for sitting on her throne for 70 years, praising Elizabeth II for her “long service”. Long forgotten were all those efforts, and the years spent in jail by those organising the Queen’s untimely death and the reaons they did so, urged on by people for whom meeting royalty had now become a way of life.
‘Back in 1977, during the last time this monarch had a celebration of her ‘service,’ when she was marking her silver jubilee, we saw no subservience from such people in Ireland. You can read about the events in Great Britain in the article below.
‘Nationalists and socialists in the North of Ireland were quite clear about the Queen’s service. Eight years of British military occupation of nationalist areas, internment without trial, military atrocities, collusion with Loyalists, killing innocent civilians, torture of prisoners, as well as the usual litany of problems such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate services and discrimination marked this Queen’s reign.
‘In Belfast we got loads of those Socialist Workers Party stickers and went round pasting them on every lamp-post, gate, post box, bus stop or whatever. They were small enough to fit into your hand and no British soldier or RUC man could see what you were doing. The stickers were brilliant, taking off every member of the royals.
‘There was a protest march, of course, down the nationalist Falls Road, and of course, it was stopped, as always, by the Brits at the Castle Street entrance to Belfast city centre.
‘And there was an IRA bomb at the New University of Ulster in Coleraine. The Queen appears to have had luck on her side, as the timer was incorrectly set and the bomb went off twelve hours before her arrival.’
Here is the other piece on the Silver Jubilee:
Radical Objects: Stuff the Jubilee Badge
By Danny Birchall on November 25, 2011 in Radical Objects
This anti-monarchy badge was produced and widely distributed in 1977 by the Socialist Workers Party as part of their ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ campaign which focused on the cost of the jubilee and the royal family itself, at a time of public sector cuts. Unlike other anti-Jubilee material produced by the SWP at the time, it doesn’t bear the SWP name or logo. The Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II took place in 1977 against a background of rising unemployment and cuts in the public sector. As well as official public celebrations of the monarch’s 25 years on the throne there were significant protests and opposition on the left. An alternative ‘People’s Jubilee’ was held at Alexandra Palace in North London, with music provided by Shakin’ Stevens and Aswad. The Sex Pistols’ punk anthem God Save the Queen was released to coincide with the Jubilee celebrations but received no airplay from the BBC or commercial radio stations. It is still debated whether the record really reached number 1 in the charts on the week of the Queen’s Jubilee itself, or no.2 as the BBC claimed.