Monday 22 January 2018

Paying a fitting tribute to John Redmond's role in the complex narrative of our history

John Redmond inspecting Irish National Volunteers in 1915.
John Redmond inspecting Irish National Volunteers in 1915.

Tomorrow evening, an important soiree will take place at the gilded Irish Embassy in London's Belgravia – that enchanting gift by the Guinness family to the Irish nation. We've been instructed to be in our seats promptly, as BBC TV will be filming what is an event involving historic perspectives.

For a clutter of significant speakers, including Baroness Shirley Williams, Lord Paul Bew, Professor Michael Laffan, John Bruton – introduced by minister Jimmy Deenihan – will formally mark the centenary of the Irish Home Rule Bill signed into law in the fateful summer of 1914. The BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane will moderate proceedings.

For most of those hundred years, many Irish schoolchildren have been taught to despise, or even hate, the steward of that bill, John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. CS "Todd" Andrews – one of De Valera's main lieutenants and subsequently boss of CIE – spat at John Redmond in the streets of Dublin. My colleague Liam Collins remembers how the Christian Brothers imparted a particular loathing of Redmond and his party.

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