Armagh’s bid to win the ‘UK City of Culture’ title in 2025 has been condemned by Anti Imperialist Action Ireland (AIAI) and Republican Network for Unity (RNU).
Traditional Irish republican Cait Trainor stated:
“Armagh is the ancient Capital of Ulster, it is a city that has a long and proud history of resisting British occupation, the attempts to now label it as the foremost of all ‘UK’ cities is an attempt to normalise the continued British occupation and an insult, Irish culture cannot be portrayed and downgraded to just some regional UK’ curiosity.
Likewise the 6 Counties is a contested territory, we do not concede any ground to be described as part of the ‘UK’, no authentic Republican ever could. All attempts to bring this repellent title to Armagh will opposed by local and national protestors”
While, so far, these are the only two groups that have released statements, it is understood that most other Republicans will take a similar stance
The title ‘UK City of Culture’ is a designation given to a city in the ‘United Kingdom’ for a period of one calendar year, during which the chosen city hosts cultural festivities. The programme is administered by the British Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The first ‘UK City of Culture’ award was given in 2013 controversially to Derry City, this lead to protests and condemnation from many quarters given the British Governments history in Derry, especially the murder of 14 innocent men at the hands of the British Army’s parachute regiment.
Despite this, the bid was supported heavily by Provisional Sinn Fein and the SDLP, their argument being that despite the ‘UK’ title it could bring social and economic benefits.
The Designation of Derry being the foremost culturally of all ‘UK’ cities was however strongly opposed by Republicans throughout Ireland.
While the All Ireland Fleadh took place in Derry in 2013, Republicans gathered on the streets of Derry and held protests condemning the designation of Irish music and culture as somehow a regional culture of the ‘UK’
There were many statements of condemnation from all Republican quarters.
Since the shame of Derry winning this detestable title, Republicans have vowed to ensure that any future Irish City vying for the British title will be rigorously opposed, visibly and consistently.
In a statement released on their website on 13 October AIAI said:
“The Socialist Republican Organisation, Anti Imperialist Action Ireland is calling on all Republicans to oppose the designation of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon as a ‘UK City of Culture’.
Speaking from Armagh, a spokesperson for the group said, ‘Armagh is not part of the UK. Armagh remains one of the 6 counties that form part of British Occupied Ireland, and the City of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon is an Irish city under illegal occupation by British imperialism.
Moves to designate the city a ‘UK City of Culture’ is part of a wider British Imperialist strategy to present the ongoing illegal occupation of Ireland as Normal, and must be rigorously opposed by all Republicans.’
Giving a history of Armagh they continued:
“‘There is much to celebrate in the culture of Armagh, but the ongoing British Occupation is not one of them. Armagh and her people have a proud culture of resistance against imperialism and moves to designate the city with a British title are deeply insulting to all those who have given their lives for the All Ireland Republic.
The spirit of resistance in Armagh stretches back to the stories of Cú Chulainn, to the city’s position as the last resting place of Brian Boru, the High King of All Ireland who defeated an earlier wave of foreign colonists, down to today and the ongoing Republican Resistance to British Imperialism. The move to designate Armagh as a ‘UK city of Culture’ is an attempt to whitewash the centuries of history recognising Ireland as a sovereign, independent nation and instead present the British Governments illegal claim as legitimate. It cannot go unopposed.”
Ending with a call for Republican unity on the matter they concluded:
“Anti Imperialist Action Ireland calls on all Republican organisations and individuals in Armagh to take action now to oppose Britain’s strategy of Normalisation. By working together to oppose this designation, Republicans can demonstrate that Armagh is an Irish City and the British Occupation always will remain an unwelcome hostile presence in our country.”
RNU in a statement described the bid as “UK City of Vultures”
Elaborating on how Derry did not benefit long term from their stint they began
“The title, city of culture is lauded as a reward which sees investment, regeneration and cultural events as part of the package. In 2013 Derry City claimed the title of UK city of culture; did they see investment and regeneration? In short, the answer is no.”
“What it did create was a short-lived money pool used under the guise of culture, that was absorbed by greedy business tycoons, the city remained, and still remains socially and economically deprived with no investment and little beyond planned regeneration for the future, something which is still pending in many areas as of October 2021.
This is reflected in a Multiple Deprivation Measure Report in 2017, which rated East, Derry City and Strabane as the most deprived area and the Diamond, which is the City Centre of Derry being rated as 6th most deprived area in the North, three other areas in Derry City are also included within the top 10.”
Remarking on the pointlessness of this title they continued:
“Remarkable considering the promises from feckless politicians that campaigned for the title, city of culture. The same political parties are now campaigning to bring this fallacy back to the North, this time in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon district.”
North Armagh RNU Cumann member Joe Weir stated:
“The idea that this will bring prosperity to the district is a falsehood, it will give a short-term impulse to profiteering business tycoons, the concept of trickle-down economics simply doesn’t work. The United Kingdom is not a part of our culture, it isn’t apart of anyone’s culture, it is a political entity which suppresses our right to sovereignty.”
Continuing he described the bid as part of normalisation of British Rule
“We wholeheartedly believe that these normalisation practices need to be resisted by the republican community as a whole, this is a propaganda exercise for those in the North who want to portray Britain in a positive light, it is a slave mentality that would portray the master as generous for allowing you to exist.”
Explaining how Culture is being used a weapon against the Irish People the statement said:
“The British government now view the Irish as a people who can be appeased through their culture, it is the real reason they rolled over to Sinn Fein demands for an Irish language act. It is degrading and shows the complete ignorance of the political elite in the North, who will use culture as a weapon and who will use culture to line their own pockets, forever profiteering of our people.”
Concluding with strong words they ended:
“The government fears autonomy, it fears empowerment, because an empowered people are not so easily cowed or bought through publicity stunts like the city of culture, which in reality, city of vultures is a much more fitting title, as the greedy attempt to monopolise the events for personal gain”
Armagh has been put onto a shortlist of 8 Cities within the so called ‘UK’ all vying for the title, each city will each receive £40,000 to develop their applications with a final short list due to be announced early next year.
It is understood that Republican protests will start to take place in Armagh and beyond should they make it through to the next shortlist round.