The North is not occupied and Queen is not commander-in-chief of British Army

Dear Editor,

Dear Editor,

I write just to comment on the statement of the local Sinn Fein councillors regarding the visit to Tipperary of Queen Elizabeth.

Firstly, while it is true that a small minority of people have a principled objections to the visit, (anti monarchists, the associated costs, republican sentiments) most people are of the view that it will do no harm and may do some good.

Indeed most people are concerned that the visit goes well and there are no incidents that may harm our visitor or the reputation of our country. If the councillors want to hold up their placards all well and good.

Secondly, the idea that the Queen is in some active form Commander in Chief of the military forces of the United Kingdom is ridiculous. I don’t think the Queen has worn a military uniform since she was active in the war effort against Nazi Germany prior to her coming to be Queen.

Since the failure of the English Republic (The Commonwealth) in the 17th century and the restoration that followed the person of the Crown has been in word and deed linked to the will of the Parliament. The Queen has neither eyes to see nor lips to speak other than she is directed by the Government. That is right in a constitutional monarchy which the British maintain for themselves as their form of Government.

Thirdly the expressed notion that Northern Ireland is under occupation by British forces bears little resemblance to what is usually understood by the term occupation. Is it meant that this occupation is holding the people down by force, that it resembles the occupations of Nazi Germany of Poland, France and much of Europe during the Second World War, that freedom of speech or movement are curtailed, that there is no degree of self government? The presence of a British influence in the security of Northern Ireland seems to me to be on the whole benign and cannot meaningfully be thought of as an occupation. That is just not true. There have just been democratic elections to the Assembly in the North in which Sinn Fein played an active and possibly positive role. Elections don’t happen in occupied countries.

In any case is it not a settled fact that after the Good Friday Agreement and the plebicites both North and South that it was agreed that constitutional position of the North would only be changed with the agreement of the electorate there. This I believe is Sinn Fein policy. Incidentally, when that time comes, which it surely will, perhaps the people of the North may choose independence in a form which does not necessarily include either Eire or the United Kingdom. A Place Apart as Dervla Murphy called the North with its unique character and history.

Finally, would any day or time be good for the visit of the Queen if we decide on the basis of anniversaries and their associated sensitivities? There is hardly a day in the calendar when one could not pick out some terrible personal tragedy and loss linked to the Troubles on all sides of the conflict.

The visit of the Queen does coincide with the anniversary of the deaths of both Patsy O’Hara aged 24 and of Raymond McCreesh also 24 both part of the IRA Hunger strike carried out to achieve political status.

It also coincides with the deaths of John King aged 20, Paul Bulman 19, Andrew Gavin 19, Michael Bagshaw and Grenville Winstone 27, names which will mean nothing to most reading this. The names of five young British soldiers killed by an IRA landmine in Camlough Co Armagh two days before the deaths of the hunger strikers.


Peter Bermingham