Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Unionists snub 1916 and badmouth it too!

The British at a barricade during the Rising On Monday I posted about how the Taoiseach wanted to have unionists involved in this year's 1916 Rising commemorations. I stated that I would like to see them participate but that I couldn't see it happening and that I would respect whatever decision they made on the matter. However, what I hadn't counted on was the fact that unionist politicians would come out and basically slag off the event in pathetic fashion. Unionists like Michael Copeland.

I figured I would give my thoughts on some of Mr Copeland's feelings towards the Easter Rising:

"The Easter insurgency which took place during the Great War led to the death of approximately 30 rebels, 200 British servicemen and over 200 innocent Dublin citizens".

Notice how the British thus avoid all blame through Mr Copeland's view that the insurgency led to the deaths? Basically it's a cute way of ensuring that the British become exempt from any criticism. I wonder does the same apply to Bloody Sunday? After all it was an illegal march so applying the same logic, had it not taken place, the marchers wouldn't have died. Is that a fair assessment of things?

Mr Copeland should read up on Captain Bowen Colthurst, later described as mentally unstable, who during the Rising shot dead six people in cold blood, including the pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington.

As well as that the South Staffordshire regiment bayoneted innocent Irish civilians during the Rising and there were other incidents of British brutality towards civilians on the day. Many of the revisionists choose to overlook this though as it doesn't suit their agenda to point out that bloodshed occurred as a result of the British.

"It took place at a time when 300,000 Irishmen of all religions were serving as volunteers in the British army, 50,000 of whom gave their lives."

Indeed it did but this gives the impression that unionism itself was a beacon of immeasurable loyalty. Sadly, historical facts ensure that things aren't that clear-cut. I'll let Michael Laffan, Professor of History at UCD, explain in his book, The Partition of Ireland 1911-1925, (which I highly recommend by the way):

"They (the unionists) saw their relationship with Britain as a contract which could not be altered without their consent, a contract which transcended the opinions of electorates and the fluctuations of parliamentary majorities. They made it clear that they would not be bound by the result of any election or plebiscite on the home rule question...Ulstermen who were genuinely proud of their devotion to the king and the union jack were prepared to rise in rebellion, and at least some of them, including men such as (Frank) Crawford, were ready to welcome William II of Germany as their deliverer just as their ancestors had welcomed William III of Holland. Such an attitude was perfectly logical for a people who saw themselves as children of the 'glorious revolution' of 1688. There were more radical or light-hearted alternatives to George V ; Saunderson had declared his preference to Russian rule to that of a Dublin parliament while F. E. Smith chose Constantinople and the sultan of Turkey."

I guess unionists and the 1916 rebels weren't as different as some would have us believe! Food for thought, eh?

"It heralded the end of the long and honourable tradition of constitutional Irish nationalism and brought to the fore the blood sacrifice ethos of armed republicanism which led directly to the partition of this island and the Irish Civil War."

Three things need addressing here. First of all, partition had been discussed prior to the Rising. Second of all, the 'blood sacrific ethos' was an ethos shared right across Europe including amongst the unionists, some of whom signed the Ulster Covenant in their own blood and who saw glory in 'dying for King and country'. Thirdly, the 'honourable tradition of constitutional Irish nationalism' was directly challenged by the unionists and the Conservatives! Laffan in his book quotes a unionist MP who at the time claimed:

"ten thousand pounds spent on rifles would be a thousand times stronger than the same amount spent on meetings, speeches and pamphlets."

Let us also not forget the Tories and specifically Bonar Law's declaration in 1912 that if Home Rule were to proceed, unionists:

"would be justified in resisting such an attempt by all means in their power, including force … if such an attempt is made, I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster can go in which I should not be prepared to support them."

Even more despicably, Laffan quotes this comment from Bonar Law on the prospect of bloodshed in Ulster:

"from a party point of view that would be advantageous to us."

I would suggest to Mr Copeland that he stop viewing Irish history in such a narrow fashion as he does presently. Ours is not a history that can be whittled down to orange = good, green = bad and vice-versa.

Remove the blinkers, Copeland!
Copeland's view of history is laughable

I must say I'm saddened and disappointed at Mr Copeland's comments. They display an all too comfortable and content ignorance towards certain aspects of this island's troubled past.

No doubt Mr Copeland will be ready, sash and all, this summer for the marches in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne where many Irish Catholics were slaughtered. No doubt the hypocrisy of such a stance will be lost on him.

I really wish unionists would show more respect towards the nationalist people. As much as I detest what the Orange Order embodies you don't see me seeking to deny them their right to celebrate their history. In fact, the Irish Republic has made great strides in recent years in reaching out to unionists over the Battle of the Boyne. If unionists don't wish to do something similar in relation to the Easter Rising, fair enough. But don't try and crap all over the event and badmouth it.

Is showing a little respect too much to ask?


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