Saturday 20 January 2018

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Legitimising the events of 1916 fraught with danger

We need an honest debate on what has happened during our many civil wars, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

At a reunion last week of the British Department of Trade and Industry, where I worked in the late Seventies, I had the usual dispute with Patrick Pearse's first cousin, Patrick Shovelton. Patrick was educated at Charterhouse and Oxford, served in the war in the Royal Artillery, became a senior civil servant and later Director-General of the General Council of British Shipping.

He has two important gongs from the queen; his wife is a Dame. His Who's Who entry is unremarkable, except for the sentence: "Born 18 Aug. 1919; s of late S. T. Shovelton, CBE, and May Catherine (née Kelly), cousin of Patrick and Willie Pearse, Irish patriots".

Patrick knows me only because I wrote Pearse's biography, about which he complains. He intends to stay alive until 2016, he explained, for he has been promised a seat in the front row at the centenary celebrations. We had a brief rehash of our disagreement over the legitimacy of 1916, and parted company civilly, with me, as usual, wondering at the unquestioning enthusiasm for a violent revolution of this pillar of the British establishment.

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