Wednesday 20 September 2017

The ideals of the Rising can still be achieved

Students from St. John The Evangelist National School in Adamstown Dublin working on a new Proclamation based on the 1916 Proclamation (from left) Jakub Robertson, Aoife O’Driscoll, Gozie Chukwudi, teacher Aoife Rice, Ayo Fatola and Cahill Wan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Students from St. John The Evangelist National School in Adamstown Dublin working on a new Proclamation based on the 1916 Proclamation (from left) Jakub Robertson, Aoife O’Driscoll, Gozie Chukwudi, teacher Aoife Rice, Ayo Fatola and Cahill Wan. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

We are a people for whom the past is as vivid as the present, even without the prompt of this centenary year which invites us to remember a group of extraordinary, idealistic men and women who altered the course of Irish history. But a race preoccupied by the past needs to learn from it.

The Easter Rising led not only to the foundation of the State, it shaped the contours of our cultural identity. 1916 helps to define how we see ourselves. In the run-up to the rebellion, a romanticised version of violence was advanced - Padraig Pearse's blood sacrifice, heavily invested in mythmaking and martyrdom.

Such iconography has been referenced again and again during the intervening century in novels, poetry, film, theatre and art. It was used as inspiration during the Troubles, most potently during the hunger strikes of the 1980s. But the few holding out against the many to the last drop of their blood is a far from unusual theme in Irish culture, dating back to the mythological hero Cúchulainn protecting Ulster's borders singlehandedly against Queen Medb's warriors. The 1916 leaders - numbering poets among them - conjured up the blood sacrifice repeatedly.

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