Taoiseach urges respect for UK monarchy amid TV coverage row

Ireland’s premier has urged respect for those who support the monarchy in the UK after two opposition parliamentarians questioned the time Irish national broadcaster RTE is devoting to the King’s coronation.

Leo Varadkar stressed that the model of constitutional monarchy is backed by a majority of people in the United Kingdom as he responded to criticism levelled by two socialist TDs in the Dail parliament in Dublin.

Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd Barrett from People Before Profit-Solidarity both raised concerns that RTE One is devoting four hours of televised coverage of Saturday’s events in London.

Mr Murphy branded the monarchy an institution built on “racism, privilege and empire” and claimed the coronation was a “very obvious attempt to rehabilitate that institution”.

“Some republicans are saying that they are going to attend this coronation on the grounds of reaching out to the unionist community,” he said.

King Charles III coronation
The King leaving Westminster Abbey in central London, following a rehearsal (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“We think it is perfectly possible and necessary to build a united socialist movement of working-class people from a Catholic background, Protestant background, and a non-religious background, not on the basis of this sort of anachronistic and hated institution, but on the basis of the interests of ordinary people and the need for a socialist Ireland in a socialist world.

“Even in Britain only 29% of people think that the monarchy is very important, it’s an increasingly unpopular institution.

“But, yet, if you turn on RTE on Saturday, you’re going to be treated to four hours of the coronation.

“Why on earth is our state broadcaster spending four hours on a Saturday displaying this so-called coronation?”

Mr Boyd Barrett stressed that Ireland was a republic.

“Whatever political differences there are, I think most of us identify with the aspect of it being republic, that we don’t believe in kings and monarchs and inherited power and privilege, particularly when it’s associated with empire, with colonialism, with shocking inequalities between a tiny group who have that inherited power among the royal aristocracy and ordinary people,” he said.

“And against that background, while of course we all very, very much welcome the peace that arose from, or accompanied at least, the Good Friday Agreement, the idea that sort of building bridges should extend to us having an uncritical approach to a coronation, something by the way that most of the remaining royal houses in Europe have completely abandoned, they don’t have coronations anymore, it’s not legally required.

Richard Boyd Barrett (Niall Carson/PA)
Richard Boyd Barrett (Niall Carson/PA)

“Yet this weekend, we are going to have huge amounts of public money in Britain spent on this coronation, an insult to huge numbers of people living in poverty in Britain.

“And…the national broadcaster in this country is going to broadcast this for four hours.

“I mean, is that really an appropriate thing to be done from the standpoint of a republic?”

Responding during a question and answer session in the Dail, Mr Varadkar said: “The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy.

“That position is supported by the majority of its people.

“I think that’s something we should respect.

“Monarchies sometimes become republics.

“Barbados was the latest to do that.

“But they do when their people want to change their system of government and the majority of people in United Kingdom want a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected parliament and government and I think we should respect their choices.”