Sunday 19 November 2017

Thank the man who won our freedom

Towering figure in Irish history deserves eternal gratitude for changing the course of the nation, says Michael McDowell

RTE has commissioned a series of five programmes under the title Ireland's Greatest. The idea, loosely based on a BBC precedent, is that a poll was conducted among the general public with a view to identifying figures in Irish history who could be considered to be "Ireland's Greatest".

A shortlist was compiled, consisting of Michael Collins, Bono, James Connolly, John Hume and Mary Robinson. This shortlist has attracted some criticism; many people rightly ask: "What about Daniel O'Connell, WB Yeats, Charles Parnell, Michael Davitt, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Eamon de Valera and so on?"

Others have made the point that it's like comparing "apples and oranges" to compare the living (whose ultimate status in Irish history is very hard to judge) with people who are long dead (and in respect of whom we know the sum total of their lives through history and biography).

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