British army band plays at K Club

Sat, Oct 6, 2012, 01:00

AS A further step towards the normalisation of relations between Britain and Ireland, last night’s visit of the Irish Guards band to the K Club in Co Kildare had a surreal air.

The British army’s finest preformed Amhrán na bhFiann on the venue’s manicured lawns, and in the distance a late fourball creaked past with their golf carts. All that was missing was a threatened demonstration outside by republican hardliners, but Éirígí said it had decided not to picket the gates out of respect for the benefiting charity, the Jack and Jill Foundation.

Éirígí’s chairman Brian Leeson, however, continued to call on the charity in advance “to change the format” of the fundraising event, which was hosted by the Security and Emergency Services Ireland Forum (Sesif), a voluntary group promoting social exchanges between different cross-Border agencies including the PSNI, the NI coastguard and the Dublin Fire Brigade.

Éirígí described the Sesif as a “shadowy organisation committed to rehabilitating the image of Britain’s occupation forces in Ireland” and complained at “the concept of using an army that has killed Irish children to raise funds for an Irish children’s charity.” While Éirígí said its protest shouldn’t be seen as an “attack” on the foundation, it had encouraged supporters to post criticism of the event on the charity’s Facebook page.

The charity said such negative comments had affected sales, but it reported a late surge in demand yesterday. Chief executive and founder Jonathan Irwin said: “I just noticed middle Ireland has generated its own backlash. People who had no intention of coming have decided to support the event because they decided not to be bullied by bullies.”

On a personal level, he said, “I don’t think it was worthy attacking a children’s charity in that vicious way when it was all predicated on people who have been brought together by the peace process. There is a feeling that the two nations are on a process of rapprochement.”

Seamus O’Neill, a retired principal who helped to set up Sesif as a peace process initiative, was delighted with the 100-strong turnout, which included British ambassador Dominick Chilcott and Major General Sean McCann, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

Maj Wayne Hopla, the band’s director of music, said: “As musicians we just want to play music.”

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