Sinn Féin and their Queen’s Funeral

Deaglán O'Donghaile

September 28, 2022

The intensively mediated death of Elizabeth Windsor, accompanied by the relentlessly maudlin and invasive coverage of official mourning and her funeral, had an intensity that can only be described as imperial. Forced as it was into every corner of public discourse, this coercive atmosphere of state sorrow had a distinctly colonising thrust and meaning. Unleashed during a moment of total class warfare within her very disunited kingdom, it also marked an endpoint in the trajectory of her most obedient servants: the formerly Irish but now thoroughly British political party, Sinn Féin. During Windsor’s reign colonial chickens came home to roost as the woman who presided over British forces while they rampaged across the six counties of British-occupied Ireland then became over the past decade and a half the queen of foodbanks in her own country [1]. Her reign spanned a long period during which overt political violence in Ireland was paralleled by ongoing economic brutality not only there but also in England, in Scotland, and in Wales.

The integral nature of state and economic violence was highlighted by the fact that loyalty to the British crown was professed across the official political spectrum while in workplaces her death was marked by coercive announcements from bosses ordering workers to show their respect. But for those who have endured imperialist violence in colonies such as Ireland, Kenya, Aden, Malaysia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya - to cite just some of the more infamous theatres of British military violence during Windsor's reign both as head of state and as commander-in-chief of the British military - memories of very direct forms of colonial coercion will have been revived. hey certainly were for me. This time the orders were mediated within the disunited kingdom by a thoroughly compliant media rather than by an aggressive British military but the ideological objective was the same: the even tighter closure of the mainstream news outlets to anything like dissenting thought. Having grown up in Derry, Ireland during Britain’s war of counterinsurgency there, the past two weeks produced a coercive political environment reminiscent of the repressive atmosphere that I experienced as a child and adult. This time around, however, Sinn Féin's complicity in the imperial spectacle played a decisive role in the latest state operation.

Historical Erasure and the Deletion of Consciousness

In a particularly unctuous statement issued before the embalming fluid even had time to settle the Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, announced her grief for her 'powerful advocate and ally' and declared: 'I salute her' [2]. Her diction conveys much about the domestication of her party and its relationship to the entire monarchical spectacle, the objective of which is the deeper and ever more thorough colonisation of the popular imagination. This was attempted through the the manipulation of public opinion via a highly uniform discourse articulated from the very outset on September 8th by political parties, media outlets, corporate organisations, educational institutions, legal entities, and cultural bodies. Describing this as the process of hegemonisation, the communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci has shown how these formations function cooperatively in the service of power by collectively producing and disseminating official narratives that influence the public reception of political events, economic trends, cultural tastes, and even the understanding of history. Such is the extent of their discursive power that these hegemonising narratives can ultimately shape how reality itself is interpreted and understood - they form attitudes, tempering and shaping the public's will to tolerate authority while diminishing its capacity for resistance. The objective of hegemony is the saturation and domination of public expression, private conversation, and, ultimately, of individual thought. It is used to reduce independent and critical consciousness by cultivating the unquestioning acceptance of power, but not just power in its abstract sense: hegemonising discourses also normalise the violence through which power is channelled and with which authority is physically enforced. However these forces can be resisted and their potential reversed by the organisation and presentation of liberating and more powerful counter discourses