Saturday 1 October 2016

President's speech puts the naysayers back in their place

Published 31/03/2016 | 02:30

Home Rule: John Redmond. Photo: Getty
Home Rule: John Redmond. Photo: Getty

President Higgins' keynote speech reminded us that the executed leaders were "advanced thinkers, selfless men and women who died so that the children of Ireland in future would live in freedom, with access to their fair share of Ireland's prosperity".

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It at last made us proud to be Irishmen, and we heard our President utter the truth after listening to the naysayers chuntering on about their hero, John Redmond, who would deliver us a Home Rule far inferior to that which we had before Grattan's parliament was destroyed by bribery and corruption by Lord Castlereagh, on behalf of the country that invented 'imperialist triumphalism' in the 17th and 18th century.

Redmond, their hero and 'pacifist', in his 16-page prologue to 'The Irish at The Front' - a recruitment book by a London Times journalist - states, among other banalities: "No people can be said to have rightly proved their nationhood and their power to maintain it until they have demonstrated their military prowess.

"And though Irish blood has reddened the earth of every continent, never until now have we, as a people, set a national army in the field."

Redmond added "it was in that spirit her sons went throughout Europe, influencing the world of a thousand years ago. That is the spirit her sons are now illustrating on the field of war today".

These are some of the words that our hero used to seduce young, starving Dublin men, who were without work after the 1913 lock-out. They fought in a war which, according to Christopher Clark, a British historian, "Europe sleepwalked into, and it should never have happened".

Furthermore, according to the historian Niall Ferguson in his book 'The Pity of War', as a percentage of our population we lost more men than any other country then in the British Empire

As a matter of fact, despite pleading by Redmond to the British Prime Minister, no Irish gallantry was ever rewarded by a 'Mention in Despatches'.

I will leave the last word about British Imperialism to the historian of the Conservative party, Robert Blake, who asserts that Bonar Law believed that all political and national disputes are seldom settled by peaceful means within the framework of a liberal constitution. On the contrary, they are usually resolved, as Bismarck observed, not by parliamentary majorities - but "by blood and iron".

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

No 'new' nation born in 1916

It is important to note that 1916 is not the 'birth date of the Irish nation'. Rather, it marked a key milestone on the road to an independent Irish State.

To maintain otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand and misrepresent the mentality of the men and women of 1916, while casting previous generations of Irish people into a cultural and ethnic limbo.

The Rising was not planned with a view to creating a 'new' nation. Instead, it was fought in defence of an historic civilisation and culture - as old as any in Europe - then under threat of extinction by anti-national imperialism.

Unlike so many commentators today, the revolutionaries understood the difference between nationhood (meaning a people bound together by common cultural, ethnic, and historic ties - for example, the Irish nation), and statehood (meaning a form of political society - such as the Irish Republic, as proclaimed by an element of the Irish nation in 1916).

Dr Mark Phelan

Craughwell, County Galway

'Duck truce' showed decency

There has been a tendency over the years to poke fun at the unofficial truce observed by both sides during the 1916 Rising to allow for the feeding of the ducks in St Stephen's Green, with at least one recent newspaper article alluding to is as "a descent into farce".

I would see it rather as a commendable example of simple human decency in the midst of bloody conflict.

The park-keeper, James Kearney, deserves enormous credit for ensuring that his feathered friends were looked after despite the dangers that surrounded him on that fateful week.

I only wish that this compassionate attitude towards the welfare of non-human creatures was more prevalent among today's politicians, who claim to honour the men and women who struck for freedom a hundred years ago.

The unofficial 'truce' was certainly consistent with Padraic Pearse's love of nature, as evidenced by his poetry and expressed views.

In his poem 'The Wayfarer', he spoke of the joy he felt...

"To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,

Or a red ladybird upon a stalk,

Or little rabbits in a field at evening,

Lit by a slanting sun…"

A century after the 'duck truce', blood sports continue to shame our nation, their legal status a testament to man's perennial inhumanity.

Though one might blithely say "sure, they're only animals", just as the quacking beneficiaries of that lull in the firing a hundred years ago were 'only ducks', they do feel pain - and their plight is an indictment of our failure to protect wildlife from recreational cruelty.

John Fitzgerald

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Diaspora needs Seanad votes

Laura Harman is right to argue for voting rights for the diaspora.

That is why, back in February, we decided to launch www.emigrant following a two-month consultation with Irish emigrants and representative groups around the world.

However, we would argue that ­attendance at an embassy to vote would be an unnecessary encumbrance, and deeply impractical for those living far from a representation.

The recent Manning report on Seanad reform makes a compelling case for the feasibility of an electronic register and postal ballot.

Having been more talked about than talked to during the General Election, it is welcome to see a ­number of candidates and parties taking this issue seriously in the Seanad election.

One hopes those sitting down to negotiate a programme for government are listening now too.

Ed Davitt

Seanad Candidate (TCD Panel), Brussels

Barry Johnston

Seanad Candidate (NUI Panel), London

Irish Independent

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