Wow! Just wow!
Like most of Gibraltar we decided to put patriotism before any fear of terrorist attacks and went to the National Day rally in Casemates Square.
The new (ie Dec 2011) Gib government pledged to bring back the political stance to Gibraltar’s National Day and today they did it in big style.
A zillion UK MPs had been invited to participate which they did. Why would you not? A free jolly to sunny Gib? Of course they would be happy to come and voice their support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and retaining British links.
In previous years, the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) had toned down the national day speeches so that it was no more than a banal speech about Gibraltar, awarding children prizes for fancy dress, and giving out medals of honour. Boring.
In Casemates Square today, we heard from Ulster Unionists, Scottish Nationalists, Labour, Liberal and Conservative. Where was the Welsh front I ask?
Anyway, the SNP and the UDP got huge roars of support. Can’t say I agree with Ian Paisley (Jnr)’s stance on homosexuality aka homophobia, but he’s certainly got the art of rhetoric off to a T, just like his old dad.
The Labour MP, Jim Dobbin, Chair of the all party Gib committee, or something like that, didn’t get such a resounding reception.
Maybe that was because Jack Straw fucked it up trying to negotiate joint sovereignty back in 2002.
A bit of history.
The first referendum in Gib was 45 years ago in 1967. Then, there was a later one in 2002 after the secret deals between Straw and Madrid.
In order to ensure that the referendum was conducted fairly and that its result could not be dismissed, the Government of Gibraltar invited a panel of distinguished observers headed up by Gerald Kaufman, MP.
Their published report confirmed that:
The observers were extremely impressed with the organisation of the referendum and particularly welcome that the role of the observers was integral to the process, as distinct from the more passive role of observers in other elections. The meticulous way in which votes were counted exceeded requirements and went beyond requirements adopted for UK elections
Reaction in the Spanish media was hostile, with El País commenting that:
No Spanish Government, neither this one or its predecessors, has done enough to make joint sovereignty or integration with Spain an attractive prospect.
The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ana Palacio described the referendum as “illegal” and “against all the UN resolutions”.
For his part Jack Straw described the decision of the Government of Gibraltar to hold its own referendum on the prospect of shared sovereignty with Spain as “eccentric”.
In his evidence to the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in 2008, Jim Murphy MP, Minister of State for Europe, stated:
“The UK Government will never — “never” is a seldom-used word in politics — enter into an agreement on sovereignty without the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar and their people. In fact, we will never even enter into a process without that agreement.
The word “never” sends a substantial and clear commitment and has been used for a purpose. We have delivered that message with confidence to the peoples and the Governments of Gibraltar and Spain. It is a sign of the maturity of our relationship now that that is accepted as the UK’s position.”
Meanwhile today, we heard the word ‘Never’ alot.
The UK would NEVER give up Gibraltar, and Madrid should stop claiming Gib. The next time a Spanish fishing boat came into Gib/British waters it should be apprehended. Very gung-ho. Willing to back it up UK?
And from Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar was not willing to share one grain of sand or one drop of water. Not one drop.
As always, Joe Bossano got a rousing reception too, when Fabian reminded everyone he was the man who introduced National Day 20 years ago.
In 1992, the then Chief Minister of Gibraltar Joe Bossano, travelled to the United Nations to argue for the right to self-determination inspiring the formation of the Self Determination for Gibraltar Group (SDGG). In order to generate popular support for self-determination they held the first National Day at John Mackintosh Square (the Piazza) on 10 September 1992 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the day the 1967 sovereignty referendum was held.
The first National Day was so successful that the avalanche of people that spontaneously turned up could not fit into John Mackintosh Square. The Government then took the responsibility of providing some help organising the event, since it fostered the right to self-determination that the Gibraltarians had been demanding at the United Nations since 1963. Therefore, the Government declared the 10 September a public holiday and in 1993 the venue was changed to the larger Grand Casemates Square.
The active opposition of the Spanish Government to self-determination combined with the negative posture of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, strengthened the resolution of the vast majority of the Gibraltarians to press ahead for their decolonisation by the year 2000 in accordance with the high principles of the Charter and the target date set by the United Nations to eradicate colonialism.
Instead, the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, proposed joint sovereignty with Spain, which further intensified the sense of national identity reinforced by the National Day.
The 2002 National Day was closely followed Gibraltar’s second sovereignty referendum in which the proposed plan for shared sovereignty was overwhelmingly rejected by the Gibraltarians.
So there we have it. Gibraltar does not want to be Spanish, and courtesy of Joe Bossano, every year on September 10, we reiterate this message.
Personally, I think a nice sign hung on the north face of the Rock, saying ‘Fuck Off, Spain,’ would be a good idea, but perhaps it is too blunt. So we will all keep dancing around the silly political circles.
However, most people today listened to the speeches and then happily danced away. Or ate out. Or walked home. But had turned out to support Gibraltar.
And to finish with a different sort of patriotism. Congratulations to all the British athletes who took part in the Paralympics, that closed yesterday, and won an astounding 34 gold medals and 120 in total to come third behind China and Russia. Given the respective populations of our countries that was one hell of an achievement.
Some more history:
These games marked the return of the Paralympic movement to its spiritual birthplace: the British village of Stoke Mandeville first hosted the Stoke Mandeville Games, an athletics event for disabled British Second World War veterans, to coincide with the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.
The Stoke Mandeville Games were the first ever organised sporting event for disabled athletes, and served as a precursor to the modern Paralympic Games. Stoke Mandeville also co-hosted the 1984 Summer Paralympics with Long Island, New York after its original host, the University of Illinois, pulled out due to financial issues.
Anyways, here in Gib, the main post box has been painted red, white and blue, following the Summer Olympics, no gold because we didn’t win gold, but we did have a rhythmic dancer and an umpire participating in the London Olympics.
London did well with the Olympics and the Paralympics and so did our British athletes. While we celebrate National Day here in Gibraltar today, we also remember and value our Britishness.
More Gibpix either in a slideshow or another post…. slideshow now added
All sources: wiki – accurate enough for Olympics and Paralympics, and the snippets of Gib political history.