Wednesday 24 July 2019

Rebel Pearse was no gay blade but had autistic temperment

LIAM COLLINS THE 1916 hero Padraig Pearse never fired a shot in anger during his week in the GPO in Dublin - and it is doubtful if he could hold a gun. The man who came to symbolise Easter Week spent much of his time talking about Irish literature with Joseph Mary Plunkett, who was dying of TB.

"Clearly the intensity and eccentricities of Pearse's character often led people to think that he was mad," says Professor Michael Fitzgerald, an expert on child psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

Professor Fitzgerald and fellow author Antoinette Walker believe Pearse had Asperger's Syndrome, which is high-functioning autism, that gave him "remarkable strength of will and huge reservers of energy" but also made him "grossly naive and highly impractical", "immature" and "possibly emotionally disturbed".

They also believe that this explains Pearse's chronic shyness around women but dismiss the theory that he was homosexual, and say his love of young boys was a Victorian innocence rather than a tendency towards paedophilia.

"Given his enormous talents and enigmatic, eccentric, immature and contradictory nature, Pearse can be understood in terms of Asperger's syndrome," say the authors in their new book on famous people with the condition, Unstoppable Brilliance.

"Traditionally, Asperger's syndrome was associated with those in science and engineering fields, but there is growing awareness that it is also seen in those in positions of political leadership and among creative artists," says MEP Kathy Synnott, in her introduction to the book.

According to Professor Fitzgerald and his co-author, Pearse's behaviour as a writer, member of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood), practical joker - and his general failure to "get" things - mark him as an obvious candidate for Asperger's Syndrome.

"Despite being a member of the IRB Military Council, Pearse had very little to do with the planning of the Rising: this speaks volumes about his lack of tactical abilities . . . The unpragmatic Pearse, consumed with idealism, believed to the end that the Rising would succeed."

The book also discusses his "shy, silent, introspective and socially inept" behaviour.

"Given his lack of interest in women, many have automatically assumed that he was homosexual. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this was the case. That said, Pearse clearly prized male friendships that feature a certain homoeroticism. In many aspect of his life, however, Pearse bore all the hallmarks of an ascetic monk. With his autistic superego he could exert huge self-control - celibacy in this case."

It discusses his "gross naivety" which leaves some of his poems open to misinterpretation.

One Irish language poem, Little Lad of Tricks, caused grave alarm to fellow rebels Thomas McDonagh and Plunkett with the lines:

'There is a fragrance in

your kiss

That I have not found yet

In the kisses of women

Or in the honey of their


The book is to be published by Liberties Press in Dublin.

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