Monday 19 March 2018

Sinn Fein trapped in a time warp

Government plans to commemorate 1916 are inclusive. Sinn Fein plans a retro hate-fest, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

As we rev up for the Battle of the 1916 Commemoration, those who want Ireland released from its ideological straitjacket can be happy that our country has come a long way since 1966. Then it obediently celebrated the violence that had brought us such horrors as civil war and partition and was about to unleash three decades of bloodshed upon Northern Ireland.

Then there was no open challenge to the received view that we must slavishly continue to follow - or at least pretend to follow - the example and instructions of seven dead revolutionaries who had represented almost no one but themselves. The victims of the Easter Rising recognised then were the executed 16: hundreds of soldiers, police, bystanders and women and children from the Dublin slums were overlooked - being merely collateral damage of a kind we've always been good at forgetting.

We have songs about the dead leaders of the United Irishmen, but where were the laments for the 30,000 or so caught up in the counter-productive rebellion of 1798, who died often excruciating deaths by gun, pike and fire? Not in the ballad that made Tom Clarke cry ('And 'twas early one morning when the sun was still low,/They murdered our hero brave General Munro'). Not in any of those about Sean Mac Diarmada's hero ("Bold Robert Emmet, the darling of Ireland,/Bold Robert Emmet will die with a smile"). Nor in Patrick Pearse's graveside eulogy to O'Donovan Rossa, the alcoholic patron saint of dynamitards ("splendid and holy causes are served by men who are themselves splendid and holy"), who planned the indiscriminate bombing of English civilians to turn the population against the Irish in their midst.

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