John Bruton: 'Easter Rising damaged Irish psyche'
Published 01/07/2014 | 23:10
People must consider the "damage that has been done to the Irish psyche" by violence on the streets of Dublin during the Easter Rising and years later as the battle for independence rolled on, a discussion in London has heard.
Former Taoiseach John Bruton said he believed the bloody battles fought in 1916 led directly to the brutal violence of the War of Independence and Civil War that followed.
"If there hadn't been the introduction of violence into nationalism in that demonstrably dramatic way in Easter week ... there wouldn't have been a Civil War," Mr Bruton told an audience at the Irish Embassy to mark the centenary of the 1914 Home Rule Act.
Asked by discussion moderator Fergal Keane whether he thought Rising leader Patrick Pearse had justified "the Provos", or Provisional IRA, Mr Bruton said: "Yes."
"I read what Pearse has said about the use of violence. He praised the Ulster volunteers ... saying that this was a great day that they were armed. He couldn't have been more wrong," he added.
Mr Bruton was accompanied by leading historians Lord Paul Bew, Professor Michael Laffan and Professor Richard Toye on the panel discussion which is part of a series of events taking place to commemorate important historical happenings between 1912 and 1922.
The event was originally due to be held at Commons Speaker John Bercow's house but was moved to the Irish Embassy when he refused to allow Sinn Fein MPs to attend.
A spokesman for Mr Bercow at the time said: "Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats in the House of Commons. In keeping with previous speakers' decisions and long-held practice, the hospitality of the state rooms in Speaker's House is not extended to Sinn Fein MPs. This is, in part, a mark of respect to the House."
Just one of the party's MPs, Francie Molloy, ended up attending the discussion, with the others at Westminster for the party's summer reception.
Mr Molloy said it was "regrettable" that the event's location had to be changed.
"I think for some reason the Speaker seems to be out of tune with the rest of what is happening both at monarchy level and at parliamentary level," he told the Press Association tonight.
"I think it would have been nice just to have been in Westminster debating it. We weren't in Westminster at that time (1914) and we are still not taking our seats in it, but we are part of the institutions so it would have been nice just to have that recognition of the progress that has been made."
During the discussion Prof Laffan told an audience of parliamentarians, academics, officials, business, community and cultural representatives that a "better balance" has been achieved in looking back at various elements of Irish history.
"I think it is now more widely accepted that there were two traditions (constitutional as well as revolutionary), not one," he said.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, who opened the evening, said the Home Rule Act was one of the most significant pieces of legislation relating to Ireland to be passed in Westminster between 1800 and 1921.
The discussion, hosted by Irish ambassador Daniel Mulhall was, he said, part of continued efforts to look at the collective histories of Ireland and Britain in "an inclusive manner".
The debate, attended by politicians including shadow secretary of state Ivan Lewis and academics such as Diane Urquhart and Marianne Elliott, will be broadcast on BBC Parliament on Saturday at 9pm.