Cork Protests The British Queen's Visit

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Spin and window-dressing were the order of the day this afternoon in Cork where a heavy-handed police presence ensured that the British Queen’s visit to the city could be presented to the outside world as ‘positive and welcoming’ and ‘a real Irish welcome’.  A sizeable protest on Sullivan’s Quay was met with lines of riot police and police dogs guaranteeing that those who opposed the visit were kept far away from where they could be seen and heard.

Cork’s Lord Mayor and the city’s Chamber of Commerce went to all ends to ‘beautify’ Cork for this occasion.  Although Cork is ravaged by job losses, shop closures and derelect sites on the city’s main thoroughfares, this event was sold to the public as ‘a good way to boost tourism’.  In effect what this meant was that many of the cronies who do business with City Hall got lucrative contracts to provide the city with a make-over for the day.  According to the City Council this was ‘money that it was intending to spend anyway’.  But in truth everyone knows that for the next while coffers will be empty when it comes to essential city maintenance.  So in the end flags, bunting, flower pyramids and huge drop banners welcoming ‘Her Majesty’ were erected on the route of the Queen’s journey through Cork. 

Along with this the world’s media were offered prime positions on Cork’s Grand Parade while the city’s public were met with barriers and special zones, and massive restrictions to their free movement for the day.  In order to make certain that the ‘turnout would look respectable’ the City also press-ganged thousands of school children into service for the day, lining them up along the route and offering them flags to wave.

The final piece of the jigsaw involved the thousands of police that descended on the Cork for the afternoon.  Without doubt it was the most heavy-handed police occupation of the city centre area in living memory.  Riot police were in visible reserve while the Garda horse-mounted police section stood sentry duty at a number of bridges.  The riot police were quickly deployed to keep at bay what was, for the most part, a carnival protest against the British Monarchy. 

The main protest was called by Cork’s Sinn Fein.  Beginning at 12.30 pm the crowd was entertained with republican ballads.  This protest was later joined by anarchists, some from the Workers Solidarity Movement, and by a range of socialists and members of the IRSP.  The Cork 32 County Sovereignty Movement also appeared along with other independent socialists and republicans.    In all about five three hundred took part.  There were a series of confrontations and at one on Washington Street, police drew batons and struck protestors.

WORDS & Images: Cork WSM

 


Protests Greet the British Queen in Cork

Oppressive Garda presence by the Lee in North Korean-style finale to royal visitThe armed power of the Irish state and the local establishment extended a heavily stage-managed and trumped-up 'welcome' for the reigning British monarch, while denying Cork citizens freedom of movement in their own city. Once again An Garda Síochána infringed upon people's freedom of protest.

About 300 assorted republicans, anarchists and other anti-monarchists braved an oppressive police presence to make public protest against the visit of Queen Elizabeth II on Sullivan's Quay this afternoon. Among the organisations present were Sinn Féin (who organised a stage, music (all republican ballads; perhaps some of the many anti-monarchist pop and punk songs would have been worth a play too SF folks?), Republican Sinn Féin, the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, and the Workers Solidarity Movement.

The police operation restricted public protest in Cork city centre to a section of Sullivan's Quay, with access to large areas of the either restricted in access or closed entirely for much of the working day. Thousands of school students were used by the authorities to pad out the tiny crowd gathered at the corner of South Mall and Grand Parade and create the illusion of a 'welcoming throng' for the elderly scrounger. They were also used to shield her eyes from the protestors across from the South Channel of the river Lee.

The heavy Garda presence included riot cops, dog handlers, the Garda helicopter and several other small aircraft, the Garda mounted unit and any number of uniformed and plainclothes officers. Public order units were seen on South Gate Bridge, Clarke's Bridge and St. Finbarre's Bridge. As protestors moved along the southside quays, Gardaí responded to block access off to the centre. In spite of this, a handful of protesting citizens made it as far as Washington Street, but were then confronted by numerous police.

In spite of the efforts taken by the Irish government and media to 'popularise' this visit, many of the streets the royal motorcade passed were empty, and but for the last minute dragooning of the bulk of the city's school students the centre would have been bare in comparison to a normal Friday in good May weather. So much for the 'boost' to tourism and the economy this 'visit' is bringing then. The 'great and good' may pronounce themselves pleased with their four-day mail-fisted celebration of imperialism at everyone else's expense, but the response of the population at large has been one of studied indifference, and no little opposition. Let's hope that this city never has to endure another 'royal' visit!

WORDS: Ray (first published to indymedia.ie)

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