Thursday 14 December 2017

The legacy of 1916 should be to liberate, and not to denigrate, the Ireland of today

Actresses Sarah Greene, Ruth Bradley and Charlie Murphy pictured before a press screening at the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield for the launch of RTE’s 1916 drama ‘Rebellion’. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Actresses Sarah Greene, Ruth Bradley and Charlie Murphy pictured before a press screening at the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield for the launch of RTE’s 1916 drama ‘Rebellion’. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

Who are the true inheritors of the legacy of the 1916 Easter Rebellion today? How should we commemorate 16 executed volunteers who espoused physical force? Further, how relevant is the Proclamation to the Ireland of 2016? Is it historical revisionism to equally acknowledge the innocent victims of the insurrection? What defines modern-day patriotism relative to 1916 republicanism? Should an Independence/Republic Day be set as an annual tribute to the founding fathers?

Such questions generally are the basis of the contemporary arm-wrestle among politicians and historians. One would hope that all answers might espouse the principle of inclusion.

The Easter Rising now assumes a mythical significance, superseding all the other milestones of the Irish independence struggle. It wasn't until January 1919 that the actual Irish Declaration of Independence occurred. The Irish Free State was born in 1922 and an Irish Republic was only enacted in 1948. The precise date of the Rising was April 24, yet Easter Sunday this year falls on March 27. Easter brought its own symbolism where parallels between Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday and the fate of the executed martyrs could hang in the air.

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