Farewell to Martin McGuinness / Popular referendums on Basque sovereignty / Protests in Macedonia

17 to 23 March

Martin McGuinness' funeral, in Derry.
Martin McGuinness' funeral, in Derry. Author: Sinn Féin @ Twitter
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Martin McGuinness, one of the most prominent figures of Irish Republicanism, has been laid to rest after he died this week, aged 66. McGuinness was a key figure in Northern Ireland’s road to peace. Peace is also advancing in the Basque Country, as ETA announced it will be fully disarming itself, but is going backwards in Kurdistan, where Newroz has been marked under the sign of violence. Meanwhile, Macedonia is living weeks of political and social tension, in which the role of the Albanian language has much to do.


Martin McGuinness buried in Derry. Thousands of people attended, March 23, the funeral of former IRA commander and Northern Ireland deputy first minister, who died on March 21 at the age of 66, the victim of a rare disease, amyloidosis. UK prime minister Theresa May has admitted McGuinness’ “indispensable” role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. So did former US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. McGuinness was Sinn Féin's chief negotiator during the peace process that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. He became deputy prime minister of Northern Ireland in 2007, in a coalition government led by Unionist Ian Paisley (DUP). McGuinness held that position until January 2017, when he resigned.


Kurds mark Newroz; Selahattin Demirtas, Figen Yüksekdag remain jailed. The co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, who were elected members of the Turkish Parliament in 2015, have said they will continue their “fight for peace” despite the fact they and another 11 MP of the party are imprisoned. Turkish official media portray this year’s Newroz as “a celebration of joy,” even though the situation on the ground is not quite joyfull: a UN report earlier in March accused Turkish armed forces and police of having killed hundreds amid a bloody conflict against the PKK and allied groups in Kurdistan. On the other side of the Turkish-Syrian border, Newroz has been marked for the first time in Manbij after the liberation of this partially Kurdish city from its Islamic State occupiers.

30,000 votes in second wave of referendums in Basque Country. Unofficial referendum on Basque sovereignty have taken place in 35 municipalities on March 19. People have cast their votes “with a clear goal —that our people can decide on its own future,” organizing association Gure Esku Dago has claimed. In this wave, turnout exceeded 24%. Among those who voted, 96% supported Basque sovereignty and 3% rejected it. The first wave of referendums was held in June 2016. Nearly 37,000 votes were then cast.

ETA to disarm by 8 April.French newspaper Le Monde quotes Txetx Etcheverry —a member of Basque pro-independence civil society group Bizi— as saying that the armed organization has handed them “responsibility for the disarmament of its arsenal.” Basque pro-independence Sortu party secretary-general Arnaldo Otegi has said this is “an act of disobedience and of popular sovereignty” given the fact that the Spanish and French governments “do not want to involve themselves.” The Spanish government has insisted that ETA “must disarm and ask pardon”. The armed organization, Spanish minister of Interior has added, will not get anything in exchange.

Further protests against deal between Macedonian Social Democrats and Albanian parties. Organizers have said a rally against the agreement brought together 50,000 people on 21 March. Protests have been ongoing since February 27, when Macedonian Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev announced he had the support from three Albanian parties to form a government. The deal was expected to include an expanded official use of the Albanian language in Macedonia. But Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov refuses to give Zaev the mandate to form government. Ivanov argues the agreement could “destroy the sovereignty and integrity of Macedonia.”

Oscar Temaru fails to get enough support for French presidential race. Contrary to what he himself had previously announced, the Polynesian pro-independence leader will not be able to stand as a candidate in the presidential election to be held on 23 April. Temaru has fallen well short of the required 500 endorsements by elected officials to be declared an official candidate by the Constitutional Council validated the candidacy —the Polynesian politician has only secured 109. Breton pro-autonomy prospective candidate Christian Troadec had previously given up from the race, not having achieved more than 20 endorsements.

Escola Valenciana annual meetings begin. The federation of pro-Valencian language associations is launching its traditional series of spring meetings on March 25. The encounters will take place until 3 June. The meetings are organized as festive events for school pupils and parents alike, This year’s manifesto highlights the fact that Valencian-medium schools create citizens “with values of solidarity, equality and justice” and “guarantee real multilingualism” in “Valencian” —the local denomination for the Catalan language—, “Spanish and English."