Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Unionist fury over sensible British move

GPO after the battle I see there's alot of anger in unionist circles over the very mature and admirable move by the British government to send British ambassador to Ireland, Stewart Eldon, to attend events marking the 1916 Rising.

The News Letter has a silly letter from a disgruntled unionist over the matter whilst the Young Unionist's website has an awful post up on the issue. I would dissect the stupidity of the post in full but it would probably take me a week. I'll simply let you form your own opinions on that guff. I will however comment on some of the opinions of unionist politicians on the decision by the British government:

First up let's analyse wee Jeffrey Donaldson's hilarious comments (oh wait he was being serious) on the matter:

"It's bizarre that the British Ambassador should be invited to these celebrations in the first place."

Oh really, Jeffrey? Do you think so? Would you say it was more bizarre than a group calling itself 'Love Ulster' deciding to come to Dublin to inform local Dubliners that they didn't like them butting into the North's affairs? Because if my memory serves me correctly, you did not find that bizarre at all. On the contrary you championed their cause.

"After all, this is about celebrating the deaths of British soldiers, British policemen in the old Royal Irish Constabulary and innocent civilians."

No Jeffrey, it's actually about celebrating an act of defiance. I was under the impression that the same was true of the Orange Order's celebration of events like the Battle of the Boyne. Mr Donaldson, would you say then that the 12th of July celebrations each year are a celebration of the deaths of Catholics?

"The Easter Rising was an act of terrorism directed against the British State and that a representative of that state should in anyway be involved in an event glorifying such actions is most unwelcome."

The Easter Rising was not an act of terrorism, it was a rebellion. There's a difference. This was outlined by a United Nations panel in November, 2004, who defined terrorism as:

"intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".

The purpose of the Rising was not to murder Irish civilians but rather, as the name suggests, to have the Irish people rise up in rebellion against the British state. As well as that, a UN short legal definition proposed by A.P. Schmid stated that:

"an act of terrorism is the "peacetime equivalent of a war crime".

Leaving aside the fact that this event occurred prior to the establishment of the League of Nations or the UN, clearly the Rising could not be classed as a "war crime". Therefore Mr Donaldson is wrong but to get back to his Love Ulster connections, in 1974 Dublin was bombed by loyalists and as we know loyalists were active in the formation of Love Ulster. Is Jeffrey thus a gigantic hypocrite? I would have to conclude that yes he is.

The UUP's Danny Kennedy also criticised the decision to send the British ambassador to the 1916 Rising celebrations:

"It's quite astonishing that the Government would be even prepared to acknowledge the events, let alone participate.

"I think most people will be astonished. Bizarre is the only word for it."

I beg your pardon? Why on earth wouldn't they acknowledge the events? Is it acceptable to ignore certain aspects of history, Mr Kennedy? I find your view of things bizarre!

I would like to take the time to applaud the decision by the British government to send the Ambassador, Stuart Eldon, to the 1916 Rising commemorations as it shows a depth of maturity that unionist politicians seem a long way off from attaining. It never ceases to amaze me how unionists band about terms like "terrorism" when commenting on the Easter rebels yet they overlook the barbaric savagery that the British troops themselves engaged in on the day. Not only did the South Staffordshire regiment bayonet 15 innocent civilians on the day for example, but a host of other atrocities were carried out as The Guardian newspaper outlined some years back in this article. Some of the events that occurred on the part of the British:

"The North King Street area was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in late April 1916. It is known one officer, Captain Bowen Colthurst, later described as mentally unstable, shot six people in cold blood, including the pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington."

"James Moore was killed by soldiers at his front door in Dublin's Little Britain Street. "He was probably a perfectly innocent person," the memo notes.

"Under the heading "The Case of Patrick Lawless and three others killed and buried at 27 North King Street", the memo says: "It is not unlikely that the soldiers did not accurately distinguish between refusing to make [sic] prisoners and shooting immediately prisoners whom they had made [sic]."

"Thomas Hickey, described by his widow, as a "great Britisher" and their 16-year-old son, Christopher, were also shot. "There is nothing to show [they] were Sinn Feiners or had taken any active part in the fighting," the document says.

"One document shows that by October 1916, 187 "Irish rebels" had been court-martialled, and 14 death sentences had been carried out. The records of the proceedings had to remain secret, army officers insisted, because of "the position of any general who in the future may be required to cope with another rising".

"An unidentified army officer in London admits: "I think the evidence in some of the cases was far from conclusive"."

When you consider that the British Queen apologised for some of the attacks on Nazi Germany in WW2, it could be argued that the British are fortunate they are not being asked to apologise for what they did to innocent Irish civilians. However, I personally don't feel that is necessary. No use brooding about events almost 100 years ago. The gesture by the British government to send the Ambassador is to be welcomed in my view and I'm sure most Irish people would agree with me on that.

It is just a shame that unionists don't have the maturity at this point in time to at least show some class and restraint when dealing with the Rising. Considering that the Ulster Volunteer Force were the first paramilitary group to arm in Ireland - who were prepared themselves to tackle the British government if Home Rule was introduced - I don't think it is helpful, or indeed accurate, to solely demonise Irish Republicans.

Unionists frequently say they want nothing to do with Dublin but, ironically, while the Irish and British governments have evolved from 1916, the unionist mindset remains stuck in that era. Embedded, immovable.

Unchanged, unchanged utterly.


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