Thursday 17 August 2017

Confronting our blood-soaked, vicious past the best tribute to Irish Republic

Remembering the horrors of the Civil War in the South could help illuminate and heal divisions in the North where peace is still under threat

Gunning for each other: (circa 1922) Uniformed Free-State troops fire an 18-pounder field gun from the top of Henry Street, Dublin, at republican targets in the Gresham Hotel, during the Irish Civil War. A Lancia armoured car is in the foreground Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Gunning for each other: (circa 1922) Uniformed Free-State troops fire an 18-pounder field gun from the top of Henry Street, Dublin, at republican targets in the Gresham Hotel, during the Irish Civil War. A Lancia armoured car is in the foreground Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Fergal Keane

What will you be doing on June 28, 2022? It is some way away but the date is worth thinking about. It is an anniversary that denies us the easy collective swoon of 1916. There is unlikely to be any programme of cultural events to celebrate the moment when the artillery opened up to save the newly born Irish Free State. If you were depressed with the fulminating about the sight of poor John Redmond's face gazing out over College Green in Dublin - what Professor Adams of Rosa Parks fame called "a historical nonsense" - then it would be wise to brace for some spittle-flecked partisanship in 2022.

The centennial of the outbreak of the Civil War is every bit as important an anniversary as 1916 or the outbreak of the War of Independence three years after the Rising. I will not indulge in a hierarchy of significance here. That truly is an historical exercise.

One event could not have happened without the other. On this, republicans, revisionists, our handful of arid rationalists, and the legions of the apathetic can hopefully agree. The bitterness of the Civil War defined the party political structures of the modern State.

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