Wednesday 28 September 2016

Capturing rebel spirit

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Centenary: A mural in Dublin marking the Rising Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Centenary: A mural in Dublin marking the Rising Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sir - I have to say that I have never been a fan of Brendan O'Connor and his writings. On reading his front-page piece 'Our Rebel hearts', (Sunday Independent, March 27) I have had a St Paul on the road to Damascus experience.

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This, in my opinion, is a masterpiece in journalism.

It captures our Irishness magnificently and describes it so eloquently.

I read it over and over again and on each reading something new jumped off the page.

His wonderful and wise observation that no one group or tribe owns the legacy of rebellion is a phrase that I will keep and maybe even use with the writer's permission.

My own belief is that even though we have achieved our freedom, we are still somewhat locked in a colonial frame of mind.

Mr O'Connor alludes to this when he says that "we don't even accept the authority of our own to rule us now". This post-colonialism mindset has, in my opinion, led to our failure to solve our massive litter problems and to our anti-social behaviour - ever present problems. Real ownership of our place prevents these practices, I suggest.

We are a nation riddled with begrudgery and rebellious tendencies but what passion and richness there is when discussing the wrongs and "perceived injustices" of our world. We must be unique in this sphere.

May we never lose that and, Brendan O'Connor, maith thu. Job iontach!

Pat Burke Walsh

What we will not accept

Sir - Congratulations to Brendan O'Connor on his front page article ('Our Rebel hearts', Sunday Independent, March 27), methinks he knows us well.

Our rebel hearts tell us we deserve better, so the following we will just not accept:

1. Homeless children.

2. Marginalisation of people with disabilities.

3. Violence in all its forms.

4. The selling-off of the country to absentee vulture landlords.

5. A health service that robs the old of their dignity and the sick of their right to respect and comfort and the best shot they can get of a cure.

6. A different set of rules for the rich and powerful.

New government, whenever you are formed, take note!

Thank you, Brendan.

Brian McDevitt
Co Donegal

Spare a thought for exiled Paddies

Sir - Judging by the coverage of the historic events currently unfolding in Ireland, in this paper, other publications and on various other forums, home looks like an exciting place to be right now.

Spare a thought for the thousands of exiled "Paddies" unable to join in with the revelry due to distance, financial constraints or other more complicated reasons. I myself simply left it too late to secure that valuable ticket home.

In the past metaphorical reference has been made to wild geese and cattle departing, perhaps now I may add to that cannon by suggesting that if Ireland were a farmyard, her stock has never been so scarce.

Brendan O'Connor's brilliant front-page article ('Our Rebel hearts', Sunday Independent, March 27) opines that "What we can perhaps take from 1916 is that we do not accept things when we feel in our hearts that they are wrong."

Surely many hearts must feel wearied and wronged by the fact that we continue to be a nation of emigrants.

Sean Grimes

Well done on Rising to occasion

Sir - I am writing this from an Are Lingus flight halfway across the Atlantic. I have just read your newspaper for the first time as, being British and living in the north of England, it wouldn't be my choice of Sunday reading. However, today (March 27) I read your newspaper having been given it on the plane.

I am moved to write to you to express how much I have enjoyed your paper. The articles on the Rising were balanced and well thought through, not the 'all English are bastards' opinions I expected. I learned a lot from the articles and will try to further expand my knowledge. The day in the life of Gerry Adams had me laughing out loud, and I loved the cutting wit of the Soapbox.

Although I didn't understand a lot of the news articles, being locally focused, I did appreciate the quality of journalism. Please pass on my compliments to your staff on a job well done.

Joe Davidson
United Kingdom

Kerrigan's piece was magnificent

Sir - One of the really brilliant and fair, as in fair play, articles on the 1916 Rising was the one by Gene Kerrigan ('The heroes hidden in the archives', Sunday Independent, March 27). He didn't pull his punches - straight down the line. Gene had two grandfathers who were in the British army in 1916 - but it does not lessen his respect for those who joined the Irish Volunteers and made their decisions to be in the Rising. Most of them were intelligent people, he wrote.

He had no plan of writing a book on it, until he found witness testimonies of two men in the Irish military archives and was so impressed that he wrote a book, The Scrap, about them and their Volunteer regiment during the Rising.

"There were, of course, some flag wavers among them. But most were intelligent people. They lived in a subordinate country, badly and sometimes cruelly governed by an empire confident of its own superiority. They assessed the options and made the choices they thought best.

"We know," he continued, "the independent Ireland they shaped was in turn badly and sometimes cruelly governed by a coalition of conservative politicians and Catholic bishops, confident of their own superiority. History doesn't play out in a drama, with conflict leading to resolution. It's a continuing story."

How true.

He tells of the cruel hand of fate for Sean MacDermott. During the Rising, one of his men saw a policeman on the street who was known for hassling nationalists and said this was the chance to kill him.

MacDermott said no and the man was left unharmed. After the surrender, MacDermott was with the prisoners unnoticed when the same man saw him and arrested him as a Rising leader leading to his subsequent execution. It shows, in that example, how no good deed goes unpunished. This policeman was a marked man from then and was later shot in the War of Independence on the order of Michael Collins. An eye for an eye, so to speak.

We can be sad at the bloodshed and loss of lives, including civilians and children and the over 2,500 civilians and combatants injured. Those were the times, with the men and women in the Rising making the decisions they thought best at the time. Mistakes were made and innocents sometimes shot dead accidentally or deliberately. That too happened during the Rising. We remember them all.

Mary Sullivan

Was 1916 really for all of this?

Sir - 1916. What was it for? Was it for all of this?

Was it for blood? That the rebellion was drenched in the blood of the innocent most of us seem to forget. 485 men, women and children met their maker during that week-long orgy of violence. The majority of these were civilians. Lamentably, one in five was under 19.

What right had the fanatical Pearse and company to kill and maim? Hundreds of lives were cut unceremoniously short by the actions of a bloodthirsty minority hell-bent on causing as much destruction as possible. Was it for this?

Was it for Rome rule? That the insurrection brought about a State so hideously ingrained in Catholic verse is plain for all to see. Successive governments of yesteryear abdicated the rule of law in favour of that church, whose influence on parliamentary decision making cannot be viewed as positive. Church and State were complicit in the subjugation and degradation of the many who had fallen foul of Catholic norms and the depraved folly of priests and bishops alike was permitted for decades to come under the vice-like grip of Rome.

The voiceless were hurt in the process. Was it for this?

Was it for partition? That the uprising copper-fastened the creation of an unnatural border must be acknowledged. It was inconceivable that a post-1916 Ireland could have stayed united as one in the wake of the cinder path of misery and death it fashioned.

One island but two states, two parliaments, two economies, two currencies and two football teams. Was it for this?

Was it for the Troubles? That the revolt inspired more than a generation of conflict in Northern Ireland is practically axiomatic.

It is unsurprising that the province descended into a bloodbath of untold chaos and sectarian slaughter as fellow countrymen took up arms against one another in violence that distinctly echoed 1916.

How upsetting it is to think of Omagh and of the other atrocities. Of those left without a mother, a father or a child. Of all those in early graves or those without graves at all.

The PSNI warned of an escalation in republican activity in the run-up to the centenary. One only hopes that poking around the embers of Irish history will not rekindle quenched flames. Was it for this?

Was it for us? That the Rising led to the establishment of a politically and economically backward state is obvious.

Independent Ireland was far from a land of 'comely maidens ... joyous with the sound of industry'. Rather, it was a place where parents waved off yet another child because there was simply no work. And they still do. Moreover, how ludicrous is it that homosexuality and divorce were outlawed until the 1990s? And how farcical is it that Ireland still upholds the Victorian Offences Against the Persons Act and that it exports its women, like its cattle, to Britain when an unwanted pregnancy arises. Was it for this?

Tell me! What was it for? Was it for all of this?

Jack C Irwin
Willesden Green

Where was God or Catholic faith?

Sir - "In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood ... We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God." So opens and closes the Irish Proclamation.

"History is important," according to the editorial (Sunday Independent, March 27). Most of us can agree with that. May I ask how it is, then, that this historically significant edition of your newspaper on the Easter Sunday that marks the Centenary of the Rising, omits any reference whatsoever either to God or to the Catholic faith of our fathers, from which, it can be said, we have drawn the courage to become a nation, a fact indicated by the timing of the Rising?

I understand the anxiety of the media to emphasise the separation of church and state in the Ireland of today. Fair enough. But if, as you rightly said, history is important, then, so also is the part played by the Catholic faith with which that history is intertwined, admittedly often contentiously, to this very day.

If we are to follow your reasonable advice to not "turn our backs on the past, to look down on it, or treat it as a time to disregard," then why leave it out?

Fr Freddy Warner
Co Galway

Accepting criticism of your columnist

Sir - Regarding the many letters criticising Eilis O'Hanlon's article about the English, let me say one positive thing: it is not every newspaper that is willing to publish letters critical of one of its columnists.

Brendan Casserly

Literally fed up

Sir - The next person to say 'literally' in casual conversation gets a slap. Literally.

Co Leitrim

Overcome with anger and rage

Sir  — After reading the  letter of the week (Sunday Independent, March 27) regarding the misery and stress suffered by so many people who are in financial debt to the banks — something inside me snapped and I was overcome with anger and rage!

These same banks, which we the Irish public bailed out, feel free to threaten and harass people to the point where often suicide is the only option. Where is their compassion and empathy? The powers that be in our banks should hang their heads in shame.

Anna Harhen
Co Waterford

Real reform of governance

Sir — Having read of the inspirational ‘empires of greed’ speech by Sabina Higgins at the graveside of Countess Markievicz at Glasnevin Cemetery (Sunday Independent, March 27) it confirms for many the vital need for real reform of governance.

This was further reinforced by your article ‘Elite syndicate in Revenue deal’. (Business, Sunday Independent, March 27). That the suppression of their names was part of ‘the deal’ beggars belief. To suppress such information would, mostly certainly, not be in the public interest and begs the questions:

Does Revenue have the mandate to do so? Is this not a matter for the courts? What of the standing of the barristers and accountants et al involved? What is the definition of ‘aggressive tax avoidance’? What calculations does Revenue apply in arriving at a figure of a 50pc settlement?

Real reform means serving the common good and adherence to the principles of democracy and our Constitution which must be pursued above all else regardless of elitism and vested interests.

Joe Brennan
Co Cork

Europhiles and Brexit fears

Sir — I’m amused in this centenary year of 2016 to see so many of our political and business leaders scared out of their wits with the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.

We have seen calls from these folk to lobby relatives, friends and business contacts in the UK to persuade them to see the potential error of their ways, an impertinent intrusion into our neighbour’s sovereignty that we would protest loudly about if the roles were reversed. The British people will be subjected to enough spurious facts and barely concealed threats without us adding to the chorus. I hope they do vote to leave and can only wish we had the courage to do the same.

The sad fact for deluded Europhiles to accept is that most of the world is not in Europe geographically, never mind politically, and they all manage quite well without the dead hand of the EU behemoth upon them. Are the experts who predict financial ruin for anyone leaving the EU the same geniuses who failed to manage economies in recent history? Why should we believe a word from them?

Recently the state tried to deport a man the gardai are satisfied is a known jihadist recruiter only for our overlords in the EU courts to prevent us. In similar undemocratic style, Jean-Claude Juncker last year told EU member states they would be obliged to take in migrants without debate or appeal. Where is our freedom?

Too many people are keen to interpret the words and actions of the men of 1916 in ways that suit a modern agenda. I’m loathe to add to that tendency but I’m certain the men who faced execution in Kilmainham in 1916 didn’t plan the surrender of our national soul in return for the M50.

Patrick Doggett
Dublin 12

Give TDs’ pay to the homeless

Sir — It’s a disgrace to see all these TDs in Leinster House, receiving €100,000 a year plus expenses, squabbling over who gets what job. These people should not be paid until a government is formed. The money should be given to the homeless.

Paul Corney
Dublin 9

Sunday Independent

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