by Tom Henihan
It is curious how one day it is taboo to manhandle someone and the next it is heroic.
When Justin Trudeau manhandled Opposition Whip Gord Brown, the conservative party expressed their outrage.
However, when the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, appointed by Stephen Harper, assaults an Irish citizen exercising his democratic right to protest, the conservatives call him a hero.
Vickers captured the limelight for his heroism during the October 22, 2014 shooting at Parliament Hill.
The shooter, Zehaf-Bibeau having just killed ceremonial guard Corporal Nathan Cirillo, entered the parliament building shooting a security guard in the leg, then continued to shoot until Vicker’s and RCMP Constable Curtis Barrett returned fire with Barrett issuing the fatal shot.
In February 2016, along with six others, Vickers was awarded the Star of Courage.
However, Vickers’ prior heroism does not justify his behaviour in Ireland.
The protestor, Brian Murphy seemed genuinely taken aback by the excessive force and certainly appeared a lot less aggressive than Kevin Vickers appeared.
Vickers, while he may be a formidable security guard, evidently lacks the finesse and cultural understanding that we ought to expect of an ambassador.
Of course, the appointment of an ambassador is second only to the senate when it comes to plum political appointments. As with the senate, the only qualification required for an ambassadorship is to demonstrate an unquestioning loyalty to those who offer you the appointment.
Apart from being inappropriate, Vickers’ behaviour appeared ridiculous. In this instance, Vickers did not behave heroically, but like a vigilante with a hero complex.
Judging from the video of the altercation, what appears to happen is that the protester made Vickers angry and typical of an individual who has spent his life in law enforcement, Vickers acted from an inherent antipathy for those who stand in opposition to the establishment.
The commemoration ceremony, at which Vickers was a guest, was part of the centenary of the Easter 1916 Uprising to push the British out of Ireland.
In a show of reconciliation between present day Ireland and Britain, the ceremony was to commemorate the death of a hundred British soldiers who fought to put down the rising and maintain British rule.
I am all for reconciliation and moving forward, and I believe it is absurd to bear a grudge against 100 souls who lost their lives a hundred years ago. The issue is what those soldiers represented and still represent.
Commemorating their memory as individuals is reasonable and decent. However, considering centuries of British invasions, bloodshed, colonialism, an orchestrated famine, the prohibition of the Irish language and Catholic religion and of course, the confiscation of land, to commemorate those who died fighting on behalf of the British to preserve that tyranny may understandably incite protest.
It would also seem especially bitter and ironic celebrating British soldiers on the anniversary of an uprising that ended in defeat and the summary executions of its principal organizers.
That commemoration could feel in many ways like an act of forgetting those who were victimized, subjugated, impoverished, starved and murdered for no other reason than being Irish and for their efforts to regain what was rightfully theirs.
Brian Murphy had every right to protest and I am confident that many among the police and military honour guard shared his sentiments that a ceremony remembering British soldiers on the centenary of the Easter 1916 Uprising is a betrayal even when the overture to reconciliation is commendable.
Ireland, and by Ireland I mean the entire island of Ireland, belongs to the Irish and we would be remiss if we forget the countenance of our race, reflected in the faces of famine, evictions, mass migration and those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died fighting for what is historically, morally, spiritually and absolutely ours.