Catalans made a good showing Sunday in Dublin to mark their national day, La Diada. The official date is actually the 11th but this was the closest weekend day to it, when people would not be at work. In Catalunya, of course, it will be celebrated on Tuesday.
The event was organised by the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) in Ireland and was supported by a number of other organisations, including representation from CDRs in Ireland (Committee for the Defence of the Republic), Casals Catala (Catalan cultural association) and the Irish Catalan solidarity organisation, With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin. It took place outside the iconic General Post Office (HQ of the Irish rebels in 1916 and which still bears the marks of British bullets and artillery shell fragments) in O’Connell Street (Dublin’s main street).
The two independentist flags, the Estelada and the Vermelha were both very much in evidence, along with a banner in Irish and English, streamers calling for “Libertat”, T-Shirts of various kinds displaying identification with the Catalan national movement and/or solidarity with political prisoners. In addition there was a Basque Antifa flag flown. The event was held in a friendly atmosphere with a number of supporters having brought their children and, whether by design or happenstance, there were no speakers. The Els Segadors (The Reapers), the Catalan national anthem was of course sung as were a couple of others and a number of tunes were played on the gralla (Catalan reed instrument with a loud sound).
Last year the Diada was celebrated in a number of Catalan cities and with up to a million participating through the streets of Barcelona in a demonstration for Catalan self-determination, in a lead-up to the Independence Referendum carried out on October 1st, in defiance of Spanish Government prohibition and which was savagely attacked by Spanish police. The ANC there, a grass-roots organisation, was the major organiser of the Diada, which is no doubt a major reason why its President, Jordi Sanchez i Picanyol, was arrested by the Spanish Government and, along with others, faces charges of “rebellion” and has been in jail without bail since October.
Subsequently the Catalan Government, an independentist coalition, declared the Catalan Republic and then immediately suspended it. The elections in December returned a majority once again for independence.
Catalans in Dublin have also promised to commemorate the Catalan referendum of October last year.
This year the Diada demonstration in Barcelona, convened under the slogan “Fem la República Catalana” (“Let’s Build the Catalan Republic”) is expected to attract at least a million participants and there will be demonstrations in other Catalan towns too and many other cultural events in addition to marches and rallies. Although the event is organised well and people participate peacefully, the Spanish Government is reputedly sending 6,000 Spanish police – a move which will inevitably be seen – at least by Catalans — as provocative or intimidatory. And indeed evoke memories of Catalans trying to vote in the Referendum last October being batoned by Spanish riot police, as well as dragged, kicked, punched and shot at with rubber bullets (banned in Catalonia).
As the Diada was part of the build-up in the Catalan national movement last year, so it will be this year, although there is currently no plan for another referendum (Catalan political leaders have offered to hold another one but the Spanish Government has replied that would only be permitted if it did not lead to independence but instead to some greater extension of autonomy). Nor is there a prospect of elections this year. Meanwhile, the jailed cultural and political activists await trial without bail, others are in exile and hundreds more face charges. And the the aspiration for independence remains unsatisfied.
ORIGINS OF THE DIADA
Dates to celebrate the nation, except when they are those of patron saints, are usually chosen to commemorate an important event in the history of the nation – and not always a happy one. The Diada is one of the latter, commemorating the fall of Barcelona in 1714 to the forces of the French Royal House, the Borbons, after a 14-month siege, with the subsequent removal of Catalan laws and national rights. In a struggle between different pretenders to the Spanish Crown, the Catalans had chosen the losing side. The Irish, having made a similar ill-starred choice twice when the British Parliament overthrew its King, first with Charles I (Stuart) and later with James II (also Stuart), may well sympathise.
Spanish dictator Primo de Rivera banned the commemoration and subsequently, with the inauguration of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the Catalans opted to side with it while gaining national autonomy from the Government. However the military uprising against that Republic became what is usually known as the Spanish Civil War and Catalans fought to resist Franco. When Catalonia fell and Franco’s dictatorship was installed, the Catalan language was banned as were any demonstrations of independent Catalan national feeling, which however did not totally prevent some gestures of defiance annually on that day. The Diada has now been celebrated publicly in Catalunya every year since 1976, the first September since the death of Franco.
Casals Catala Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/
With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/
Daily 10-news video of news from Catalonia: http://www.catalannews.com/