Thursday 23 February 2017

A uniquely Irish commemoration

Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30

Padraig Pearse
Padraig Pearse

The great error that Irish commemorations can be vulnerable to, is the failure to realise the movement and country we celebrate can, despite outward similarities, be very different to modern realities.

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They might both describe themselves as Republicans for example, but entire worlds separate the chivalric innocence of a Pearse from the brutal pragmatism of Gerry Adams's views on the fate mothers of 10 can expect in war. The past, of course, can act as a guide to future behaviour, but it is not always the most appropriate agony aunt to consult. That said, historical commemorations can play a vital role in knitting together a unified state. Creating shared national truths can, however, be an elusive and difficult process and this has certainly been the case when it comes to 1916.

The Taoiseach has correctly noted that the status of 1916, as an intrinsic part of our DNA, is a story that deserves to be told unambiguously and with pride. Instead, unease has been the central theme of our response to date. This is unfortunate to put it mildly. The birth throes of other countries were as bloody and contested. Yet, they appear to be more capable of embracing their histories and building a narrative of national solidarity. By contrast, the response of the Coalition to the issues posed by 1916 was initially appalling.

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