Sunday 16 June 2019

Sinn Féin's deluded 1916 narrative now cited by dissidents to justify murders

Sinn Féin politician Lynn Boylan
Sinn Féin politician Lynn Boylan
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Lynn Boylan is one of the new generation of Sinn Féin politicians, devoid of the whiff of cordite of some of her counterparts.

However, this doesn't exempt the Dublin MEP from a basic understanding of the manner in which the Provisional IRA tarnished this country for over three decades.

After Sunday's well-received Easter Sunday parade, Boylan complained about the State using daffodils rather than lillies at the commemoration, questioning if it was a case of "revisionism". Her query was less than innocent, based upon a conspiracy theory that the official State organisers were attempting to write the Easter lily out of history.

In fact, there were lilies on display in the portico of the GPO, but Sinn Féin needed something to complain about. Notably, the choice of flowers carried by children representing the four provinces was the MEP's only observation on an event that was widely hailed as a credit to the nation.

The Easter lily was first adopted as a symbol linked to the Rising in the mid- 1920s by Cumann na mBan to raise money for the dependants of Republican prisoners and to commemorate 1916. Since the 1930s though, it has, unfortunately, been adopted by those who believe in militant republicanism.

So if there is a sensitivity, it's down to the latter day association with supporters of the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin.

As with so many of our symbols of republicanism, the Provos have stolen it for their own ends.

The tricolour has been reclaimed over recent decades, perhaps it's time to do the same with the lily.

Also wearing an Easter lily on Sunday was Shankill Road bomber Sean Kelly, when he participated in a Sinn Féin commemoration marking the 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemorations at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast, where Gerry Adams gave the keynote address

Kelly was released from prison under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement after being jailed for life for his part in the IRA's Shankill Road bomb in October 1993 which claimed the lives of nine people, including a seven-year-old girl.

Yesterday, the lily was on the berets of the thugs from Republican Sinn Féin who marched through Dublin city wearing paramilitary-style garb. It was just a taste of what has occurred in Northern Ireland over the weekend.

The editorial in the 'Belfast Telegraph' rightly stated republican dissidents had "debased the spirit of Easter" after masked figures paraded through north Belfast, Derry, Lurgan in Co Armagh and Coalisland in Co Tyrone, in stomach-churning displays.

The front page of the 'Belfast Newsletter' was accurately headlined "An island divided" as it reflected on the "sharply different interpretations" of 1916 north and south of the border, with the acknowledged sombre commemorations in Dublin contrasted with the sinister events held by hardcore paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

The misguided use of 1916 as a rationale for terrorism is among the reasons why unionists were reluctant to accept invitations to the respectful events of the past weekend.

DUP MLA Peter Weir reflected: "Events in Dublin may have been more dignified, but 1916 is still used as justification for decades of Provisional IRA terrorism and ongoing dissident republican terrorism."

Hard to argue against.

Scratch beneath the surface of Sinn Féin's own observations on 1916 and you'll quickly end up with a vindication of the Provos' campaign. Speeches over the weekend by Sinn Féin figures repeatedly laud "IRA volunteers", a reference to the Provos, not the War of Independence.

Adams deliberately linked the Rising with the Provos' campaign of murder in Belfast on Sunday: "Today we also pay tribute to all of those who, in every decade since 1916, stood by Ireland and stood by the Republic. Our country and our people suffered hugely as a result of conflict in the 1970s, '80s and '90s."

Sinn Féin's version of history would list the events in the GPO, Ashbourne, Athenry, Cork and Enniscorthy with the atrocities in Enniskillen, Birmingham, Guildford, Hyde Park, Warrington - and the Shankill Road.

'Revolution 1916', Sinn Féin's exhibition on the Rising, which charges the public €15 to enter, blatantly jumps from 1916 all the way to the IRA hunger strikes.

Sinn Féin doesn't so much rewrite history as much as seek to unsubtly merge strands of history together.

Sinn Féin-IRA's use of the lack of mandate for the leaders of 1916 to explain away the Provos activities from the 1970s to the 1990s is a simplistic interpretation of the Rising. It ignores the context of the times and the complexities of a country striving to gain its sovereignty. The 'minority within a minority' thesis about the 1916 rebels going against even the will of elements within their own organisations is indisputable, albeit open for debate.

Padraig Pearse's own thinking was influenced by the leaders of previous republicans' rebellions, such as Emmet and Wolfe Tone.

Nonetheless, if Sinn Féin wishes to cite the leaders of 1916 as the Provos' inspiration, so be it. However, how then do you counter the same proposition being put forward by the dissident republican groupings who also proclaim 1916 as the source of legitimacy for their actions?

Last night, the founder of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt, was released from prison. McKevitt was one of four men found liable for the Omagh bombing in a civil action at Belfast High Court taken by relatives of the dead. The Real IRA bomb killed 29 people and two unborn twins on August 15, 1998.

Coinciding with his release, he claimed his movement continues in the tradition of 1916. He compared Sinn Féin to the looters of 1916, running a financial racket to profit off the back of the events of 100 years ago - presumably a reference to the party's museum and merchandise sales.

The danger of Sinn Féin's deluded 1916 narrative is that it can be transposed by other groups who misguidedly claim they are following the same path.

And for that reason alone, they deserve to be called out on more than just their view on the choice of flowers for commemorations.

Irish Independent

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