TDs criticise RTÉ’s plans to broadcast four hours of King Charles’ coronation as ‘inappropriate’
• Yesterday 17:10
The Taoiseach has asked TDs to “respect” the role the monarchy plays in Britain amid protests made in the Dáil chamber against RTÉ’s coverage of the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday.
People Before Profit TDs Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy criticised the alleged waste of money and complained about RTE’s scheduled screening, as separately did Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.
Mr Murphy said Ireland was a Republic and he agreed with James Connolly’s assessment that monarchy was “a tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race.”
He said the coronation “comes at a time when four million children in Britain are facing food, poverty.” It was an institution “that is built on racism, privilege and Empire,” he added.
The pageantry planned for the weekend was “ a very obvious attempt to rehabilitate that institution”.
Some Irish republicans were saying that they are going to attend on the grounds of reaching out to the unionist community, he added
But it was “perfectly possible and necessary” to do so without replying on “an anachronistic and hated institution,” he said.
“Even in Britain, only 29pc of people think that the monarchy is very important. It’s an increasingly unpopular institution.
“But yet, if you turn on RTÉ on Saturday, you’re going to be treated to four hours of the coronation. Why on earth is the State broadcaster spending four hours on a Saturday displaying this so-called coronation?”
Mr Boyd Barrett spoke of monarchy, empire and colonialism. He said there were “shocking inequalities between a tiny group who have inherited power among the royal aristocracy, and ordinary people”.
The idea that building bridges should extend to having an uncritical approach to a coronation was faulty, he argued.
“Most of the remaining royal houses in Europe have completely abandoned it – they don’t have coronations anymore. It’s not legally required,” he said.
“Yet this weekend we are going to have huge amounts of public money in Britain spent on this coronation – which is an insult to huge numbers of people living in poverty in Britain.
“The national broadcaster in this country is going to broadcast this for four hours. Is that not a really inappropriate thing to be done from the standpoint of a Republic?” he asked the Taoiseach.
Mr Varadkar replied that the United Kingdom was a constitutional monarchy. “That position is supported by the majority of its people.
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“And I think that’s something we should respect. Monarchy sometimes become republics. Barbados was the latest to do that.
“But they do that when their people want to change their system of government — and the majority of people United Kingdom want a constitutional monarchy with a democratically-elected parliament and Government.
“And I think we should respect their choices.”
RTÉ One will broadcast a coronation special live from London.
Broadcaster Ray Kennedy will be the anchor presenter, with guests in studio in Dublin from 10am until its conclusion a couple of hours later.
Peadar Tóibín TD, founder of the Aontú party and a former member of Sinn Féin, said the broadcast was “an unusual step and an unusual choice by RTÉ.
“There will be wall to wall coverage of this event on the British television channels and indeed online,” he said. “It is not as if anyone in Ireland will have difficulty in accessing live pictures from Westminster.
“I would prefer if RTÉ put whatever money it is spending on broadcasting the coronation into some other costume drama at home. Or some documentaries. There are lots of stories of strong and inspiring Irish people that want to be told, and RTÉ has a responsible to fill that space and to represent Irish history and culture.”
He added: “I think there is a latent element in certain areas of Irish society that has a great affinity with the British royal family, maybe for particular reasons but also because of the cult of celebrity.
“It is shocking to think that this event, which is being packaged up as a pageant, is going to cost £100 million Sterling. This money would be much better spent on people who are suffering in Britain because of the cost of living crisis and interest rate hikes, which of course are causing great hardship in Ireland as well.
“It is interesting that RTÉ is indulging this performance when many people in Britain do not identify with the monarchy, who are alienated from it and its personalities, and who would rather have an equal society.”
Mr Tóibín previously criticised the high level of Irish representation at the coronation, which will include Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Head of State Michael D. Higgins. No Irish officeholder attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
Ironically, Saturday May 6 is the exact anniversary of the Phoenix Park Murders, with the same day of the week, the occasion when the queen’s new Chief Secretary in Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was assassinated in 1882, along with Thomas Burke, head of the Irish civil service.
The killings were carried out by the self-styled Irish Invincibles, one of the revolutionary societies hailed for their efforts in past generations by the signatories to the Proclamation of Irish Independence in 1916.
Mr Tóibín said he did not understand the decision of Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill to attend, given that she is an Irish republican.
But Ms O’Neill said: “I recognise there are many people on our island for whom the coronation is a hugely important occasion.” She said she was “committed to being a First Minister for all, representing the whole community, building good relations between the people of these islands, and advancing peace and reconciliation through respectful and mature engagement.”
She will be accompanied by Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey, also of Sinn Féin, who was twice interned in the 1970s as a suspected member of the IRA.
A spokesperson for RTÉ said: “The coronation of Britain’s King Charles is a global news story, being attended by world leaders. RTÉ will be providing live coverage to viewers, adding context and analysing the significance of this event for the UK and the impact it may or may not have on this island.
“The live coverage, during an off-peak time in the TV schedule this Saturday morning is being supplied from a world TV feed of the event free of charge.”