Monday, April 09, 2007


Remember the brave...

First things first I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter Sunday.

Easter is a very important time for Christians but it is also of huge significance both historically and culturally to the people of Ireland.

For it was on Easter Monday, 91 years ago, that members of the Irish Volunteers (and IRB), as well as the Irish Citizen Army, stood up to the British imperial tyrant and struck a blow for Irish freedom.

The second city of empire was the scene for the reawakening of the Irish national spirit which had been left dormant for so long.

I have spoken before here on United Irelander of my pride and gratitude to the men and women of 1916, whose courage and self-sacrifice is responsible for people like me being Irish citizens today.

To me, the 1916 Rising epitomises Irishness in a way that no other event in history does because the Rising epitomises defiance. To think of the Rising as a singular event is to do it a disservice. One must take into account everything that went before it. The British invasions, Irish people being killed and having their land taken, the Penal Laws and the suppression of religious freedom, the erosion of Irish culture bit by bit, the Famine and the heartless response of the British, the demand for Home Rule which was denied for so long. Not forgetting the threat of partition. This was the real legacy of British rule in Ireland.

The Irish were looked upon as a joke. Depicted as animals in the British satirical magazine Punch, we were seen as an untrustworthy, filthy, backward race who lacked the ability to look after ourselves.

The Irish were depicted as apes

But not all Irish people accepted this as their fate. Attempts were made to safeguard and nurture Irish culture. The voices crying out for Irish freedom who had been silenced so many times were about to cry out one more time. They were about to cry out on Easter week in 1916. And the whole world would hear them.

The British of course highlighted how out of touch they were with Irish opinion by showing no mercy and executing the rebel leaders. Incidents like Joseph Plunkett marrying his fiancée Grace Gifford hours before he was to be killed, and the barbaric execution of James Connolly (who was carried in on a stretcher to a courtyard in the prison, strapped to a chair because he was too weak from his wounds to stand and then shot) caused outrage amongst the Irish people.

The 1916 Rising made the Irish people realise that Ireland needed to get away from the British. It was the point when the Irish people finally realised that Home Rule within the UK was not the answer to Ireland's woes. It was not enough.

From a military standpoint the revolt was a failure but its success stemmed from the imprint it left on the psyche of the Irish people. No more would the Irish people have to bend to the wishes of the Tories and their friends in the Ulster Volunteer Force. Now the Irish people were going to fight for their national rights. They were going to fight for self-determination. Patrick Pearse summed this up perfectly at his court-martial on the day before his execution:

"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."

That tradition would continue to grow and was expressed in the 1918 General Election when the separatist Sinn Féin party effectively wiped out the Home Rulers and became the largest party in Ireland. Sadly, the British did not respect the result and British troops remained in Ireland. This led to the British occupying forces having to be removed by force.

It is clear that the Irish state owes its existence to the events of Easter week in 1916 and I would urge you all to reflect today on the heroics shown by those men and women 91 years ago.

Let us remember.

If you missed out on the Easter Rising theme on United Irelander for the 90th anniversary celebrations last year, you might enjoy taking a look back at this post which covers a lot of the key events.


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