BY DEBBIE DELANGE
DUBLIN, Ireland - The first official royal tour of Ireland since 1911 was marked by protests when Prince Charles visited here May 31.
Several thousand people turned out to a march organized by Dublin Against Royal Tour (DART). This was "more than we ever imagined," Pat Tierney, DART's press officer, told the Militant. As the protesters crossed O'Connell Bridge they threw a black coffin marked "Great Hunger - 1845 to 1849" into the river Liffey. "This symbolized our desire for an end to British imperialism's interference in Ireland," said Tierney.
"Prince Charles is colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment," explained Tierney, "which has killed 45 people during the last 25 years, including the victims of the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry in 1972. We opened a book, a Petition for Justice for the 45 Victims, and asked people to sign it each day of the royal visit. Some 5,000 signed in all."
The prince's visit was the dominant issue in Irish politics during the week, receiving substantial media coverage in news articles, editorials, and opinion pages.
The visit was hailed by Irish prime minister John Bruton as the most significant event in his lifetime, "to exorcise and sweep away the suspicion that existed between our two nations." Hundreds of police were on standby after firebombs were discovered in Dublin and outside the former holiday home of Lord Mountbatten, the Prince's great-uncle, who was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979.
Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims handed a letter to a senior British embassy official at a reception for the prince at Dublin Castle, once the center of British rule in Ireland, calling for justice.
"They didn't get justice," Tierney said "but the people of Derry felt it was effective. The previous day the lord mayor of Dublin, John Gormley, said DART was made up of diehards, which we found offensive. He met with the relatives and apologized to them. Now he's going to go with them to the monument in Derry `to atone' for his remarks."
There is newspaper speculation that London will carry on cementing its relations with the Dublin government with a tour of the queen. "DART is asleep now," said Tierney, "but if his mother visits she can expect a larger and more vocal protest!
"The throwing of missiles was not organized by DART," he continued. Eggs had been thrown at the prince during a short walk. "But I understand people's frustration when he didn't acknowledge the wrongs done by the Paras or express any remorse."
The prince has joined in the campaign by British rulers to free Pvt. Lee Clegg, a paratrooper who is appealing his prison sentence for killing teenage joyrider Karen Reilly. Clegg is the only paratrooper to be convicted of murder in Ireland in 25 years. Many supporters of Saoirse, which fights for the release of Irish political prisoners, referred to this during the campaign's national conference, held here June 3.
Peter Robinson, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), condemned the royal visit as out of place as long as the Irish constitution "is claiming part of the realm" of the United Kingdom, meaning Northern Ireland. The DUP is the second largest pro-British party in Northern Ireland. Robinson declared that the royal family was being used by a "treacherous government" to hand over Northern Ireland to the Republic.
Debbie Delange is a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers in Manchester, England.
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