Tuesday 21 November 2017

Violence part of history

Michael Collins
Michael Collins

Madam – John O'Connell (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013), argues that republicans are wrong in their apparent assertion that there is no answer in Christianity for dealing with the British. He points out that Jesus said that his disciples were 'as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes' (Mt 10: 16), before concluding that: 'Only those who were innocent and shrewd were capable of dealing with the British.' In support of his conclusion, Mr O'Connell cites Hume, Parnell and O'Connell who, he says, made significant progress by ruling out war in favour of using their innocence and their shrewdness.

However, I am afraid that that is rather a selective list. I could not, for example, help noting the conspicuous absence of any reference to Michael Collins in Mr O'Connell's letter, despite the fact that Collins made a great deal of progress for this country and was, indeed, one of the lead negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that founded this State. Collins, of course, does not accord with Mr O'Connell's conclusions: he was shrewd, but he was certainly no dove, and yet he proved himself quite capable of dealing successfully with the British.

It seems to me that the fact that physical force nationalism played such a significant part in the foundation of the present Republic, as exemplified by the likes of Michael Collins, is an uncomfortable reality for many in this country. Acknowledging this fact does not, however, mean that we condone or support terrorism in the present. Far from it. If I may paraphrase Queen Elizabeth, we should be able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.

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