While much of the media attention on Republican protest at the British Royal visit to the 26 counties has focused on éirígí, they were not the only group on the streets with the RNU, 32CSM and RSF also calling for mobilisations. The tiny numbers that turned out after these calls demonstrates the irrelevance militant republicanism continues to have in the lives of the majority in 21st Century Ireland.
SF could have driven a larger protest but decided to opt for other low key (tokenistic?) events and didn’t call for bodies on the streets. A sign of a growing maturity? Comfort with the normalisation of British/Irish relationships and the current status quo or pragmatism in realising protesting masses often can’t be controlled?
However, there seems to have been a snub to SF’s approach, accidental or otherwise, as one of their TDs was denied the right to walk the streets of his city, access his party offices and attend their protest:
The incident occurred as the balloons were released from Sinn Féin offices on Parnell Square which is situated within the middle of the garda cordon. A number of Sinn Féin representatives including Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD were unable to gain access through garda lines.
As media coverage throughout the day also demonstrated, Aengus wasn’t the only one absent during proceedings (though SF’s press release ignores all that and has him speaking as if there was no problem) – the main absentees were the Irish population. The Queen’s motorcade swept through empty streets to arrive at deserted venues mainly met by the sound of clicking army/police boots, military style bands and the distant chants or jeers of protest.
This does raise a question, why didn’t the masses (or at least crowd sized elements) turn out to cheer on the royal party, as seen in nations around the world? Security concerns meaning it wasn’t worth the hassle (to even gather on a street along a well know route)? A population broadly indifferent to what was billed as a historic occassion?
It seems that despite being claimed as a significant rapproachment between the States, today’s events served to demonstrate relationships are anything but fully normalised. Was it the small band of dissenters on the streets setting that narrative or something deeper? The outcome was clear, dissent was a loud voice but was it the dissent of the majority failing to engage and the traditional Irish welcome being absent that was the most conspicuous element?