Wednesday 22 November 2017

Less pageantry and more focus on who was shot and why: Deasy

John Deasy
John Deasy
John Drennan

John Drennan

Senior government backbencher John Deasy has warned that the commemorations of 1916 must not deteriorate into a series of whimsical poetry recitals, historical theorising, flag waving and parades.

Instead, Mr Deasy told the Sunday Independent: ''If these commemorations are to be worthwhile, they must confront the hard history of 1916.''

We need, he said, to: "Prioritise the telling of the people's stories from what was a brutal age, who was shot, why they were there and what happened to them."

Mr Deasy was responding to the Government's announcement, after a series of embarrassing controversies, of 40 major events for next year, with the centrepiece being a wreath-laying ceremony and parade in Dublin city centre.

There will also be a State reception for relatives of those involved in the Rising, a parade from Dublin Castle to Parnell Square on Easter Sunday, synchronised wreath-laying ceremonies and an event at Liberty Hall to commemorate James Connolly.

Mr Deasy, however, said he was ''deeply concerned that the commemoration would not deal effectively with those who were most intimately involved in the event: namely the casualties''.

He said: ''I do not see here any sustained attempt to properly detail the human stories of 1916."

This, he added, applies to all sides: "Those who were killed in action, the 64 volunteers and ICA members plus the 16 executions, 132 on the British side, 16 policemen, all Irish and 254 civilians; what are their stories?

"What is of particular interest when it comes to 1916 is that far more civilians than combatants were killed; what were their stories?"

The Fine Gael TD added: ''I assumed innocently the focus would initially be on those who died or were wounded. Instead we appear to be planning to have a lot of pageantry, poetry recitals and parades.''

Mr Deasy slammed those politicians who do not want the commemorations to be dominated by the violent events of 1916.

If we are to be truthful, Mr Deasy said, there is no alternative.

"Like every other war or battle in history, the events were bloody and ugly and hundreds of people were killed, mostly in cold blood. Avoiding the hard history of that at a minimum appears to be strange," he said.

''How we operate here will set the template here for further commemorations of the War of Independence and the Civil War.''

He added: ''If we are going to get a sanitised version full of poetry recitals and cottage industries of theorising politicians and amateur historians rather than the harsher truths of what really happens in war, no good purpose will be served''.

Mr Deasy, both of whose grandfathers fought in the War of Independence, added that engaging in the 'futile' attempt to assign meaning to this period will represent a waste of time.

''Remember the dead and wounded as individuals and let the people make their own judgment will be more respectful of those involved," he said.

Should we fail to do this, he warned: ''We open up the unattractive prospect that the commemorations will be dominated by politicians telling us what it really meant.

"Indeed, already a certain malaise has set in when it comes to an excess of amateur historians providing us with their takes on what happened.''

Sunday Independent

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