Did you see the new Star Wars? If you haven’t it is great and well worth the Tuesday Treat reduced ticket price.

The forces of the empire against the republic. Or is it the forces of republic against empire?

Anyway it is never really clear who the legitimate government is. Although the Empire seems to have the swagger of saying it is they who are legitimate and anyone who disagrees will not be met with a debate on the merits of democracy or tolerance, but rather summarily. The Empire just is and everyone had better get on board, and be its loyal indistinguishable subjects.

The republic on the other hand works on the basis on whosoever comes forward to be a part of it, no matter their previous experiences or allegiances, will be welcomed, have their Millennium Falcon fixed and supported to contribute to a better place for all.

The movie gives us little space for the complex or the nuanced as we find allegiance with the republic and belief that good will win over evil, no matter how evil or irredeemable people’s actions may appear.

Back to our own reality and every new year we are presented with thinking about the Empire that was responsible for the occupation of our country as something which can bestow honour and recognition. Apparently we are to apply a degree of nuance or complexity to this annual event. In our own context of course the Empire is something which does hold the allegiance of many of our fellow citizens. So it is not always straight forward. But Empire is not a religion, an identity or above criticism.
Being born British does not necessarily imply nor require allegiance to the idea of Empire. 

Imperialism is a wholly political policy and series of actions. Associated with it is the idea of allegiance to one supreme ruler. Lots of British people do not buy into that. Many see it as irrelevant and outdated.

So if an Irish person points out that another Irish person accepting an “honour” in the name of an empire that occupied, stole, enslaved and murdered across our globe, is wrong, that critique is not sectarian. Nor is it anti-British. It is not sectarian to say that Irish nationalism and republicanism is entirely inconsistent with the acceptance of membership, commandership, knighthood or damehood of the British Empire. It is a simple political observation.

If said person accepting the “honour” feels a little discomfort at being called out, they can argue with the politics, but hiding behind Protestant friends and neighbours is ludicrous. Not accepting an MBE does not affect our sharing our space with British citizens one iota.

Demanding that there be no critique however and couching the debate as having a sectarian dimension, is very intentionally political. That argument tells us to accept the legitimacy and legacy of the Empire. That denies us our history. That denies us our dead. And by implication that delegitimizes the aspiration to the Republic. A modern day imperialism at work.

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