Friday 9 December 2016

Politicians don't understand 1916 was a spiritual revolution, not a political revolt

Published 06/08/2014 | 02:30

Padraig Pearse surrenders to British forces after the 1916 Rising
Padraig Pearse surrenders to British forces after the 1916 Rising

A few of the things we can't handle in Ireland are balance, paradox and complexity. It's either all or nothing, black or white. For decades, marooned in a pseudo-nationalist fog, we turned our backs on the Irishmen who had fought in the Great War - until Kevin Myers woke us from our sleep of evasion. Now we cannot get enough of talking about the Great War, though I've noticed that Kevin appears to have been sidelined in the clamour to occupy the bandwagon. Interesting, that.

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Now we threaten to rush in what might be called the other direction, dismissing those aspects of our history that don't appear to sit with the newly-approved narrative. Foremost among these is 1916, which, less than two years from the centenary, becomes the subject of ominous interventions from various luminaries seeking to displace the Easter Rising from its pedestal as our central mythology of freedom.

One of the most persistent voices in this regard has been the former Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton, who last week made a lengthy submission to the Government, describing the Rising as "completely unnecessary", on the grounds that Home Rule was already on the statute books. He called for the marking of the Home Rule Bill this September, but appeared to suggest that we should forswear commemorating 1916 or other "violent episodes" in our history. The violence of that period, he wrote, "should not be retrospectively justified in the other commemorations that are to be undertaken over the next 10 years". I'm unsure where this leaves commemorations of the Great War.

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