Thursday, October 27, 2005


Thursday Thoughts: 1916 celebrations

One of the key events that took place while I was away was of course Fianna Fáil's Ard Fheis. It was the usual fare. 'Our shower of gangsters are more competent than that other shower of gangsters', but what really caught my interest was the announcement by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern relating to plans to reinstate the traditional Easter Parade past the GPO in O'Connell Street.

Personally, I think it's great news. I am a Dubliner myself and I pass by the GPO regularly. O'Connell Street holds great importance to the people of Dublin and personally I have always felt a sense of pride when I've looked up at the GPO to see my nation's flag flying over it proudly. I believe that this is evidence of the evolution of events here in Ireland. The Easter Parades were done away with originally due to the violence which was taking place in Ireland's north. The very fact that we are now in a position where we can once again reintroduce this event is very positive news indeed. I think that there are three issues involved in Ahern's announcement however which need to be addressed. Firstly, why is this happening? Secondly, why is it important to "reclaim" the Rising as Ahern has stated? And lastly, how should Irish people greet this announcement?

With regards to why this is happening, it's quite simple - Fianna Fáil are trying to reaffirm to the Irish people that they are the true Republican party on the island of Ireland. It's not a bad idea on their part. Looking at the party over the last decade, one would be forgiven for thinking that the 'Republican party' had shifted their goal from a United Ireland to a United Europe and that the 'Soldiers of Destiny' had received their pension fund courtesy of the bureaucrats from Brussels. Well, apparently not. Apparently Fianna Fáil haven't forgotten their roots. I think it's more accurate to say that they haven't forgotten the benefits which go along with these demonstrations of patriotism. Sinn Féin have moved in on Fianna Fáil's turf and while Fianna Fáil aren't prepared to move in on the Shinner's turf north of the border, clearly they are prepared to play defensive. This is all purely lip-service to the idea of a United Ireland. It will look good on their manifestos for the next General Election.

With regards to why it's important to reclaim the Rising, personally I think the events of 1916 have been tarnished by two groups. The Provos who through their actions only served to disgrace the Rising, and the revisionists who seek to demonise the actions of the men based on the actions of the Provos. Guilt by association in other words.

"The Irish people need to reclaim the spirit of 1916, which is not the property of those who have abused and debased the title of republicanism," said the Taoiseach.

I agree completely. I think it's high time that we the ordinary people of Ireland took back the Rising. Why is the Easter Rising important? Because it turned the Irish political situation on its head. The importance of it cannot be underestimated. Had it not occurred, it is quite possible that a Union Jack would today be flying over the GPO. It is quite possible that Irish culture as we know it today would have withered and died. Had it not occurred, Fianna Fail itself wouldn't be around. It is a major moment in time and one that deserves in my opinion both acknowledgement and celebration. It symbolises, I feel, a very significant characteristic of Irishness - defiance. Not giving up. 'No Surrender'. The 1916 rebels put their lives on the line with one main goal in mind - to reawaken Ireland from her slumber. Some of the rebels paid the price for that with their lives. But the British authorities in turn paid the price for that by being driven out of the majority of the island. These things need to be remembered and the young people of Ireland need to be aware of their significance. It's not about indoctrination, it's about education.

With regards to how the Irish people should greet the news, I think they should greet it warmly. The events of 1916 should not be a source of shame for Irish people. There is no shame in standing up for what one believes in. The real shame is that the Rising had to happen at all. The real shame is that these islands weren't allowed to grow and develop and stand together in friendship. That the greed of the larger island became too great that it set about taking land from the smaller island until it eventually took the smaller island for itself. Therein lies the shame. For generations, this smaller island was suppressed and the few who tried to do something about it were quickly vanquished but the desire for freedom persisted. It would not die. Defiance. Should we be ashamed of that? No. After the Rising was put down and the rebels were taken away, they were jeered by the local Dubliners who had seen their city reduced to rubble. Some even spat on the Rebels. Should we be ashamed of that? No. We should be ashamed that the stranglehold of Britishness was at the time so great that Irish people had to find themselves at odds with their fellow Irishmen. In killing the 1916 rebels, the British had gone too far. The stranglehold had become too tight and Ireland was awake and gasping for its freedom. How should we feel about that? Proud! Proud that this small island of ours through its defiance was able to stand up to the most powerful nation on the planet and demand for itself freedom!

The revisionists have been putting in place their own stranglehold. A stranglehold on patriotism. In the
Irish News, Susan McKay when writing on the plans for the reintroduction of the Easter Parade said:

"Ireland is a neutral and increasingly multicultural country. It likes to boast of its role in world peacekeeping. (Don't mention the Shannon stopovers.)

"Commemorating the past by showing off our ability to wage war, as Fianna Fail proposes, is entirely retrograde."

Nonsense! Is Ireland neutral? Yes. But does that involve being neutral in relation to our history? Must we stay out of that? Of course not. I was under the impression that our neutrality involved us staying out of wars, not staying out of commemorating our own heritage!

Are we increasingly multicultural? Yes. But does that mean we cannot embrace events which played a part in reviving our own culture? I say let people of all cultures here in Ireland line up on O'Connell Street next year in memory of the brave rebels of 1916!

Commemorating the past by showing off our ability to wage war? No, Susan. We will be commemorating the past by showing off our ability to never give up, and to never give in!

Please God I and the rest of the Irish people will have many opportunities from now on to pay homage to the rebels of the Easter Rising. No doubt that by this time next year, many Irish people, unionists and revisionist critics alike, will denounce the Easter Parade deeming it disrespectful and condemning those who turn out to honour the Rising. Well, we should turn out anyway. Not as a mark of disrespect - but as a mark of defiance.

"We seem to have lost. We have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on a tradition to the future." - Padraig Pearse, at his court-martial on the day before his execution, May2, 1916.


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