Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 (The Easter Rising of 1916)

France Had Pétain, We Nearly Had Redmond

John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915

John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915

John Redmond is probably one of the more divisive figures in Irish history and rightly so. The patrician head of the Irish Parliamentary Party whose followers eulogised him with an almost messianic fervour while excoriating any and all critics he was the self-proclaimed “leader of Nationalist Ireland” who bullied and cajoled thousands of young Irish men into sacrificing their lives in the service of the British Empire from 1914-18. While opposing “militant” nationalism at home he was a devout defender of British militarist nationalism abroad, a committed if “devolutionist” imperialist whose desire for Home Rule was driven as much by self-serving political ambitions as justice for the Irish people as a whole. Like his followers Redmond believed that Ireland was the personal fiefdom of the Irish Parliamentary Party and acted accordingly. Dissent was rarely tolerated and when rival forces arose, like the disparate Irish Volunteers in 1913, they were quickly appropriated or side-lined.

His conservatism shaped his political, economic and social world-view. Limited autonomy for Ireland within the so-called United Kingdom based upon exploitative class lines little different from that under the existing British administration allied to the diktats of the Roman Catholic church. The conformist, anti-pluralist state shaped in the 1920s by the Irish counter-revolution and the political forerunners of Fine Gael was in many ways the embodiment of Redmond’s constitutional ambitions, albeit with considerably more independence than he would perhaps have felt comfortable with.

So given John Redmond’s deplorable track record on the separation of church and state, women’s rights, employee rights, opposition to comprehensive health and social care, and generally early 20th century “neo-liberal” socio-economic outlook it is surprising to see Rónán O’Brien, a Labour Party activist and former advisor to several Labour ministers in government (at the cost of €114,000 per annum, a chairde!), defending Redmond’s tarnished political legacy in the Irish Times. Albeit in a self-defeating manner:

“It is not difficult to understand why a man who called on Irish nationalists not only to defend the island of Ireland during the first World War but to volunteer for the British army has been written out of a national narrative based on Easter 1916.

It is not difficult to see either how a man whose Irishness was matched by an affinity to the British Empire was forgotten in independent Ireland.

And it is not difficult to see how a man hostile to women’s suffrage (unlike his brother) would be disregarded by at least half our population.

But none of these things should detract from the contribution made by him and his party to Irish independence.”

Actually, I think you’ll find that they should. And do.

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The Real Subversives In Ireland

John Redmond For The Death Of Ireland

John Redmond – For The Death Of Ireland (larger image available at militaria-archive.com)

The twisted psyche of the ruling elites in Ireland is never plainer to see than when one of them emerges from the Big House to criticise the revolutionary stepping stones that led to the establishment of the nation-state they inhabit. And by implication the very existence of the state itself. Former Fine Gael politico and EU careerist John Bruton, probably one of the most inept Taoisigh in living memory, has used a meeting held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing by the British of the “Home Rule” legislation for Ireland in 1914 (severely limited autonomy for the country within the so-called United Kingdom) to effectively condemn his own nation’s resistance to colonial rule. In a speech which defies any rational understanding of European history Burton claims that the 1916 Revolution and subsequent War of Independence were unnecessary and that people must consider the “…damage that has been done to the Irish psyche” by their staging.

Well, in fairness he is right in one way. If the British state had accepted the three votes by the overwhelming number of people living on the island of Ireland at the start of the 20th century in favour of independence there would have been no insurrectionist violence or damage to anyone’s “psyche“. However I suspect that is not what the historically-blinkered Bruton means. In particular he condemns the alleged cultish devotion to “violence” by the first President of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse, a man whose life was violently ended in front of a British Army firing squad. No matter that Pearse was originally a pacifist school teacher who only latterly turned to violence as a method of last resort after the repeated failures to pass Home Rule legislation by the British and the state-violence surrounding the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. Lets not upset the revisionist narrative with something as troublesome as facts.

From the Irish Times:

“Mr Bruton was one of a number of speakers who addressed an event in the Irish Embassy last night to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Home Rule Act. Speaking later to The Irish Times, Mr Bruton said he did not believe that “the problems of Ireland” then were “amenable to solution” by violence.”

That would be Irish violence against the British. As for British violence against the Irish? Y’know, the kind that was inflicted on our people for several hundred years? On that he is unsurprisingly silent.

“The belief in the spiritual cleansing was not just one shared by Pearse at the time, he said, noting that the belief was prevalent in other countries in the run-up to the first World War. “I don’t think that that belief was particularly strong in England at the time but it was the case in other countries, and it played a role in the willingness of countries to take part in the war,” he said.”

So the British didn’t worship at the same altar of military heroism in the decades leading up to WWI as most of the other major powers in Europe? An absolutely extraordinary misrepresentation of the historical record that flies against a wealth of documentary evidence. It seems we are dealing with less a speech and more of a defence of Imperial Britain straight from the pages of a British “Boys Own” annual c.1934!

“Asked if Pearse had “justified” the existence of the IRA, Mr Bruton said: “I suppose so, yes. He could not have been more wrong. Violence is about killing, remember that.”

Later, he said: “It is a very hard to be both a fan of Padraig Pearse and of John Redmond. And I am a Redmondite, and I always have been.””

Would this be the same John Redmond who used political threats and violence to stage a de facto coup within the ranks of the Irish Volunteers in 1914 so that the anti-British military organisation could be brought under the control of Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party. The same Redmond who then built upon his successes in seizing influence within the Volunteers to further split the movement creating the Irish National Volunteers, an armed grouping completely under his control and that of the IPP? The same Redmondite politician who then sent tens of thousands of young Irish men off to die in the service of the British Empire while he stayed well away from any of the actual fighting, even sacrificing his own brother in the process?

You wish to know the difference between Pearse and Redmond?

Patrick Pearse led a thousand Irish men and women into battle in 1916 to establish a democracy in the name of the Irish people.

John Redmond sent a hundred thousand Irish men into battle in 1916 to defend an empire in defiance of the Irish people.

That is what the British apologists who populate Ireland’s contemporary political and media élites cannot forgive – or forget.

For more on this subject please read “Remembering to Forget: An essay on Ireland and WW1” by Michael Carley.

The 100th Anniversary Of The Redmondite Putsch

In June 1914 the autocratic leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party or IPP, John Redmond MP, staged something of a putsch within the ranks of the Irish Volunteers (IV), the nationalist paramilitary movement set up in response to the earlier formation of the separatist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in the north of Ireland which the British government and armed forces refused to ban or suppress. Largely the creation of revolutionary Republicans who formed the heart of the country’s politically active intelligentsia the IV was viewed as a serious challenge to the accepted hegemony of the IPP, a party which actively co-operated with Britain in its supposed “constitutional” rule over Ireland. The self-proclaimed leaders of “nationalist Ireland” led by Redmond determined that there could be no political rivals to their own organisation and its off-shoots and so set about seizing control of the Volunteers in the first half of 1914 through a campaign of blackmail, intimidation and force. With the reluctant “acceptance” of its existing members twenty-five “nominees” for the IPP were co-opted onto the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers, its ruling body.

Within months John Redmond used his position in the leadership of the Volunteers to split the movement, seizing control of the greater part of its membership and resources to form the Irish National Volunteers (INV), a new organisation wholly under the control of the Irish Paramilitary Party. This then functioned as the IPP’s military wing and under Redmond’s direction thousands joined the British Armed Forces in the fight to protect Britain’s imperial interests during World War I. Hundreds more acted as spies on the activities of the remaining Irish Volunteers, an organisation that was to join with others in becoming the “Army of the Irish Republic” or more colloquially the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Easter Rising of 1916. Indeed some INV men offered their services to the British in suppressing the insurrection, while during the War of Independence weapons possessed by the INV were used against IRA units by supporters of the rump IPP in Belfast and elsewhere. The corrupt seeds of the Irish counter-revolution of 1922-23 were planted by the Redmondites and with it the so-called Free State.

You can read much more about this over at the History of Na Fianna Éireann.

John Redmond MP features in a British Army recruitment poster calling upon Irishmen to fight and die for the British Empire, Ireland, 1914

John Redmond MP features in a British Army recruitment poster calling upon Irishmen to fight and die for the British Empire, Ireland, 1914

The Fenian Flame

Proclamation of the Irish Republic Dublin Ireland 24th April 1916

A copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic being read by Dr. Edward McWeeney, Dublin, Ireland, 24th April 1916

For decades, or indeed centuries, the British sought to criminalise the Irish Republican cause, to portray Ireland’s revolutionary movements as little more than criminal collectives, self-serving organisations driven by greed, avarice and violence. In recent years, during the latter half of the conflict in the north-east of our island nation, the British and their allies took the old acronym “the RA” (Republican Army) and transformed it into “the RAfia” a spin on the term “Mafia”. It was of course untrue, just another weapon in an ongoing propaganda war but it seems that contemporary Republicans, in the ironies of ironies, are now determined for it to come true.

How else would one describe the events of the last five years and the obvious convergence of Irish revolutionary politics with the country’s illicit underworld? Minor organisations like the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) have been assimilated almost entirely into Ireland’s crime-networks; indeed they have become a network of their own. That is not to deny that genuine and committed Republicans exist amongst its membership or supporters but the grouping is hopelessly compromised, beyond any reform or saving (if that was even desirable). Those who remain committed to the CIRA remain committed to murder and criminality not freedom and unity. They are simply narco-terrorists with all that the term implies. Much the same can be said of the so-called New Irish Republican Army (NIRA), the organisation which arose from the merger of the Real IRA, RAAD and various independent Republican activists. Despite the much-publicised attempts to carry out what is euphemistically termed “house-cleaning” it remains riddled with criminals and their associates. If ever a case was required to illustrate the dangers of mixing politics and crime – even at the level of so called “taxation” – the Real IRA and its successor organisation are it (though frankly how any Republican worthy of the name could be part of the faction which brought mayhem and destruction to the Irish town of Omagh is beyond me. Are war criminals now passing as revolutionaries?). Óglaigh na hÉireann (ÓnaÉ) which professed to above such criminality is itself now at the centre of numerous accusations of malfeasance, though many as yet remain unproved.

The simple facts are these. Since 1998 the various groupings under the umbrella of the Republican Resistance (the so-called Dissidents) have killed – murdered – more Irish men, women and children than the very Occupation Forces they are supposedly fighting against. They have inflicted horrendous violence upon each other and upon the uninvolved. They have – and this most reprehensibly of all – provided a mechanism by which Ireland’s criminal underworld has become ever more violent, ever more technically assured of itself when it comes to everything from bomb-making to eluding forensic detection. When Republicans of any organisation or allegiance are demonstrably worse than that which they oppose then they are no longer worthy of the name of Republican. They have stripped themselves of that right.

All of which leads me to an article in the Irish Times featuring an interview with Dominic Óg McGlinchey, the son of the late leader of the INLA, Dominic McGlinchey (who’s own assassination – and internecine conflict within the INLA and between it and the IPLO –  foreshadowed what was to happen when Republicans and criminals became uneasy bedfellows. But was anyone willing to learn the lesson?). I strongly recommend a read as it spells out many of the criticisms coming from within the broad Republican community, from those not aligned to Sinn Féin or any other organisation.

No one is arguing that Irish Republicans need cease to be Irish Republicans. SF has taken its path under Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and arguably used the allied military and political successes of the 1969-2005 armed struggle to make considerable progress towards the reunification of our island nation. However an honourable compromise is not the end point, it is merely a staging point in that ongoing journey, one that Republicans of all hues need to play a constructive part in. If Sinn Féin is now seen as being reluctant to force the pace of progress then others need step forward. That does not necessitate a renewed armed struggle, nor does it require a rejection of armed struggle. Revolutionary warfare is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself. The British Occupation of the north-eastern part of our country can be resisted, opposed, by other means: political, social, cultural and linguistic. The final destruction of the last administrative remnant of the British colony on our island nation can be accomplished – must be accomplished – by means other than simply military ones. It is only when such mechanisms of resistance and liberation have been exhausted, when they have proved themselves to be futile, that one may legitimately resort to armed struggle as the final option of last resort. Not first.

Are the appeals to the Republican traditions and rhetoric of times long past still valid? Are 19th or 20th century solutions workable for 21st century challenges? Or does a 21st century Ireland require a 21st century republicanism, a revolutionary vision re-imagined? As Ó Conghaile predicted, what use freedom if nothing changes but the flag upon the mast? And as An Piarsach urged, not merely free but Gaelic too. No one person or organisation is the holder of the true faith. Ideological interpretations are many, none more or less valid than any other.  The Fenian flame burns bright in the minds of all true Republicans. It does not require martyrs or sacrifices. It requires nothing more than committed and determined men and women. And it belongs to us all.

Beir bua indeed…

Update: Please note the critical Comment from Ginger below who makes some reasonable points in relation to the post above.

The Military Service Pensions Collection, Phase 1

Countess Markievicz, Irish Citizen Army, in a temporary basement cell following her detention by the British Occupation Forces, Easter 1916

Countess Markievicz, Irish Citizen Army, in a temporary basement cell following her detention by the British Occupation Forces, Easter 1916

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours (or live outside of this emerald isle) you could hardly be unaware of the release of thousands of documents from the Department of Defence’s Military Archives relating to pension applications by those who participated in the 1916-23 Revolution. The first tranche of heretofore secret files has been made available online in Phase 1 of the Military Service Pensions Collection (MSPC) release, specifically relating to those who were active during the Easter Rising of 1916. The 3200 documents are fully searchable though expect delays and crashes. The site has been inundated with users from around the world since its launch seeking out the revolutionary records of their relatives. The collection’s homepage is here or you can skip straight to the search options here. The archives are a treasure trove of information, from the dramatic to the mundane, and shed a light on the less than glorious aftermath of every revolution no matter how great or how small.

Ireland’s Jewish Revolutionaries

Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog - the Sinn Fein Rabbi

Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, Rabbi of Belfast and later Chief Rabbi of Ireland (1919-1936). Nicknamed the “Sinn Féin Rabbi” by the British due to his sympathy for the Irish Revolution and close friendship with Éamon de Valera

The always fascinating Dublin history and culture blog Come Here To Me has another excellent article on the capital’s recent past, this time an overview of the most prominent members of the city’s Jewish community who fought in or supported the Irish revolution of 1916-1923. Included in the list is Michael Noyk, the leading Sinn Féin lawyer of the period, and Bob Briscoe TD, officer of the Irish Republican Army and later Lord Mayor of Dublin. Also worthy of mention is Estella Solomons, the noted portrait and landscape artist who was active with the Cumann na mBan (CnamB) throughout the War of Independence and beyond.

You can read more on this subject here, “Brothers In Arms? Ireland And Israel“.

Irish Ireland Versus Colonial Ireland

Saoirse

Saoirse

From the Irish Times:

“Campaigners have called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to take urgent steps to save the buildings that housed the last headquarters of the Provisional Government established in the 1916 Rising.

Relatives of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic expressed their shock and anger today at the condition of the buildings on Dublin’s Moore Street following a visit to the site.

James Connolly-Heron, great grandson of Citizen Army leader James Connolly, Helen Litton, great niece of the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s Tom Clarke and Lucille Redmond, grand-daughter of The Irish Volunteer’s Thomas McDonough visited each of the buildings at 14-16 Moore Street this morning. It was the first time the campaigners were given permission to enter the buildings which have been closed to the public since 2008.

The buildings, which date back to 1763, were designated national monuments in 2007 but now face an uncertain future after development company Chartered Land, was granted permission for an 800,000sq ft development on the nearby 2.7-hectare site of the old Carlton Cinema on O’Connell Street in 2010.

A special advisory committee of Dublin City Council recommended recently that Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan withhold the ministerial consent required for development of the site.

Speaking after this morning’s extensive tour James Connolly-Heron expressed his outrage at the “shameful” and “shocking” condition of the buildings.

“I am staggered, I am shocked, I am appalled,” he said.

“These buildings have been abandoned. A cursory glance from the outside would tell you that. But if you walk through them they are in a shocking condition. It’s actually shameful at this stage how they have been allowed to deteriorate.”

Number 16, which he described as “the most important house in the terrace,” is in the “worst condition imaginable”.

Calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene, Mr Connolly-Heron said securing the future of the historic buildings is now  “a political decision”.

“We’ve been now waiting for two years for a meeting with the taoiseach about this and that meeting is now imperative.”

“It’s imperative that we meet the taoiseach. It’s imperative that Minister Deenihan takes action. And that action needs to be immediate action. There can no longer be any delay in this – it’s too important.”

Proinsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly) who died on a street adjacent Moore St after leading a sortie from the GPO in an attempt to break free said he was “horrified” at the condition of the buildings.”

Given the neo-colonial impulses of the Irish political establishment I fully expect ordinary Irish citizens to go on being “horrified” at the deliberate destruction of our non-British heritage. In fact those impulses are perfectly summed up by one of the Comments left beneath the article:

Noel Walsh: The G.P.O. is memorial enough for any number of republican insurrections.

[a better memorial would be] … a pluralistic democracy with freedom and equality for all in accordance with the basis our Christian traditions and in peace with our siblings on these British Isles. Our culture would blend with our Anglo Irish heritage in the languages and traditions of Ireland augmented by the status of our Irish nationhood.

What did we get? Rome Rule, Irish Aristocracy (self appointed ones lacking the good manners of their colonial forebears), and random self appointed elites…”

As opposed to the old Anglo-Irish colonial elites chosen by bloodline and the barrel of a gun? Sometimes one wonders if this is 21st century Ireland or 19th century? Honestly, the twisted world-view of the British Apologists on this island-nation never cease to amaze. For more information on the campaign to save the 1916 Battlefield Quarter you can listen to some audio interviews by Newstalk radio.

Why The Past Is A Guide To The Future

A copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic being read by Dr. Edward McWeeney, Dublin, Ireland, 24th April 1916

A copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic being read by Dr. Edward McWeeney, Dublin, Ireland, 24th April 1916

As an Irish Republican I believe in the historic right of the people of Ireland, as a whole or individually, to resist (where no other means exist) the British Colonial Occupation of our island-nation or any part of that nation through force of arms. However it is my firm belief that with such a right comes inescapable moral responsibilities and obligations. These beliefs are best summed up in the words of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic issued by the Provisional Government on the 24th of April 1916:

“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty…

…and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.”

Unfortunately that strict admonition was not always adhered to by those who claimed to serve the cause of Irish freedom in the years following the 1916 Revolution. In the last decade of the Northern War, as I came into adulthood, there were times when I was deeply ashamed to share the title of Republican with some of those who chose to engage in armed resistance to the oppressive remnant of the British Occupation in the north-east of our country but whose actions or beliefs were personally abhorrent to me (and to many others). Over the thirty years of the conflict many Irish Republicans have had their own moments of shame and each have their own individual tales of despair. While some think of the headline-grabbing events that still spark bitter debate my thoughts go instead to events of a smaller scale, which were nonetheless still dreadful to me and even more so to those directly affected by them. The name of Patsy Gillespie looms heavy in my mind.

The Irish writer and blogger Mick Fealty has a very important post over on the news and current affairs site Slugger O’Toole that should serve as a reminder of the grim and terrible realities of a historic war that was at times fought without restraint or morality. It should also remind those who appropriate to themselves the mantle of revolutionary Irish Republicanism that the excuse of “this is war” is no excuse at all. The end never justifies the means. They merely serve to corrupt and tarnish it. Where arguably other means now exist to resist and undermine the fading vestige of the British Colony on the island of Ireland those who chose the military path must give a greater justification for their actions than mere continuity or necessity. And if they remain determined to pursue resistance and liberation through armed force while rejecting the words and even more so the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation then they are simply a mirror-image of that they claim to oppose. Or worse.

Pádraig Mac Piarais – The New Study In Review

The Irish revolutionary Pádraig Mac Piarais (Patrick Pearse), aged 12-14

I’ve been meaning to write a review of the new biography of Pádraig Mac Piarais, “Patrick Pearse: the making of a revolutionary by the Dutch historian Joost Augusteijn, for several months but something has always got in the way. Now Philip Ferguson has penned an excellent examination of his own over on the Irish Revolution. The French blog Liberation Irlande carries a translation of the review in two parts, here and here.

Eibhlín Nic Niocaill, close friend of Pádraig Mac Piarais

Some of you might be interested to know that I’m working on a short study of the relationship between An Piarsach and his close friend and apparent object of affection, the Irish Republican and feminist writer Eibhlín Nic Niocaillwho died at the tragically early age of twenty-five during a visit to Na Blascaodaí (the Blasket Islands) off the west coast of Ireland. This should be posted in the coming weeks.

The Dream Of Roger Casement

Nobel prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa has a short article in the Daily Telegraph (yes, I know, not my usual choice of newspaper) examining the County Antrim background of the Irish revolutionary Ruairí Mac Easmainn or Roger Casement, the subject of his acclaimed new novel, “The Dream of the Celt”:

“Galgorm Castle, in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, was built in the first half of the 17th century by Doctor Alexander Colville, not a doctor of medicine but a doctor of “divinities” – that is to say, theology – who became wealthy overnight and as a result was suspected by his contemporaries of having made a pact with the devil, and of practising the dark arts. A portrait of Colville still hangs in the entrance hall of the castle and the place’s current owner, Christopher Brooke, says that no one has brought themselves to remove it because, according to an age-old belief, whoever dares to do so will die in the process.

Galgorm Castle has been in Christopher’s family, the Youngs, since the mid-nineteenth century, and one of the current owner’s most illustrious ancestors was Rose Maud Young, who, despite coming from a staunchly Unionist family – protestant and pro-British – was one of a handful of Antrim ladies who had a very active part, towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the renaissance of Gaelic language and culture, an endeavour that brought them closer to their traditional adversary, Irish nationalism. In addition to writing a detailed diary, Rose Young published three volumes of poetry, legends and songs in Gaelic which had been preserved orally and which she collected herself among fishermen and peasants in the old hamlets of Antrim. As well as being beautiful, cultured and liberal, Rose Maud Young – whose gatherings united Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics – was a friend and protector of Roger Casement (1864- 1916), the fascinating character in whose footsteps I have ventured to follow throughout these parts of Ireland.

As an adolescent, at the end of the nineteenth century, Casement studied at Ballymena Academy for three years, and spent many weekends at Galgorm Castle, as recorded in Rose Maud Young’s scrupulous diaries. It was here, perhaps, that he read the memoirs of great English explorers such as Livingstone and Stanley, who gave him an appetite for travel, and for Africa. Although he was born in Sandycove, Dublin (very near Martello Tower, where Joyce’s Ulysses begins), his family came from here and he spent a large part of his childhood and adolescence in Antrim. As an adult he returned to this land as often as he could, to cure his nostalgia and calm his spirit after the great torments that visited him in the course of a life as intense, as adventurous and as full of risk as that of a knight in an epic novel. He devoted a large part of that to denouncing the exploitation of indigenous communities in Africa and in the Amazon, and similarly – especially in his later years – to fighting for Irish independence.

Roger Casement had good reason to want to be buried in Murlogh Bay: it is the most beautiful place in Ireland, Europe, and possibly the world. It is the culmination of one of the loveliest glens in Antrim, those valleys or gorges that, between mountains of every shade of green, streams, waterfalls and sheer cliffs, descend to meet a raging sea that crashes against sculptural rocks. Hordes of birds swoop through the sky and when the days are as bright and cloudless as those the Celtic gods have granted me, you can make out, very close by, the mass of Rathlin Island, in whose villages Rose Maud Young gathered many of the poems and stories of ancient Ireland. The landscape seems to be uninhabited by humans, nature in its purest, most virginal, most edenic state.”

A Monument To Freedom Versus A Monument To Greed

From Easter Rising to Celtic Tiger. Which would we rather remember? Or, indeed, celebrate?

From the Irish Examiner.

“Campaigners have renewed calls for state intervention to stop the “disrespectful” demolition of the area surrounding the historic 1916 Rising battlefield site.

As Sinn Féin gears up to appeal for support from Government TDs to save and restore the monument in the Dáil today, James Connolly’s great-grandson said it was a modest demand.

James Connolly Heron, who has been fighting for the restoration of the Moore Street site for the last 10 years, said Nama-funded plans to tear down surrounding buildings to make way for a shopping centre need to be blocked.

“People are waking up to the fact that we have four years until the centenary,” said Mr Connolly Heron.

“We need something to show the Gathering in 2016. Are we going to show people a monument to the rising, or are we going to show them a shopping centre that is a monument to the Celtic Tiger?”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has got behind the Moore Street campaign, which aims to restore the row of houses from 14 to 17 – where the rebel leaders met for the last time – and turn the area into “a cultural educational centre of excellence”.

Deputy Adams has secured backing from some Fianna Fáil and Independent TDs, while Labour has previously gone on the record in support of the initiative.

But Mr Connolly Heron warned the mission must not be eclipsed by political point-scoring.

“That would be dishonouring the people we are trying to honour,” he went on. “It doesn’t belong to any party, it belongs to the people.”

Sinn Féin will propose a Dáil motion during private members’ time tonight and tomorrow night.

The motion, which was drafted by descendants of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, including Mr Connolly Heron, already has the support of over 50 opposition TDs.

It asks for the Government to support the proposition to ensure the site is protected and preserved, and that the surrounding buildings, streets and laneways are retained with a view to developing the area as a historic and cultural quarter.

Sinn Féin will need the support from more than 30 additional TDs to gain a majority in the Dáil to pass the motion.”

John Redmond And The Blood Sacrifice – For The British Empire

John Redmond, British Army Recruitment Poster – Dying For The Empire

Moronic statement of the week? Step forward the Irish Times and this piece from today’s newspaper:

“The introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill by Liberal Party prime minister Herbert Asquith on this day 100 years ago, in exchange for Irish nationalist support for the 1911 Parliament Act’s curtailing of the House of Lords’ powers, was for John Redmond an extraordinary moment of triumph.

Today we look back on the Third Home Rule Bill as a landmark in our history, the curtain-raiser and necessary prequel to the revolutionary upheavals that would follow. A moment that heralded a temporary breach in the tradition of democratic constitutionalism whose line the founders, and spirit, of the new State would reconnect with a decade later.”

I’m sorry? Can I have that again? The failure of the British Third Home Rule bill and the subsequent Irish Revolution was a “moment that heralded a temporary breach in the tradition of democratic constitutionalism”?

And how exactly does one have “democratic constitutionalism” in a state that didn’t have a constitution? Did the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”, an artificial entity held together by the violence and the threat of violence emanating from one part of it, have a written constitution? No, of course it didn’t. Nor does the rump UK have it now.

And democracy? Excuse me for asking the bleedin’ obvious here, but what does “democracy” mean in a nation held captive under foreign colonial rule? Ireland was invaded, occupied, annexed and colonised by the British. I don’t remember too many ballot boxes being involved in that exercise of territorial greed and expansionism by our nearest neighbour.

John Redmond – For The Death Of Ireland (larger image available at militaria-archive.com)

Our nation existed under a system of colonial administration from the medieval period onwards. British governors and British civil servants, later augmented by some locals, native and imported, ruled over the Irish people for eight centuries. That’s eight hundred years of unlawful rule. Rule through violence and terror. Forget Stalin. Forget Pol Pot. The British showed all the wannabe imperatores how to well and truly make and rule an empire. And they did it to us!

That “tradition of democratic constitutionalism” didn’t do too much for the one million Irish men, women and children left to starve in fields and ditches across the island of Ireland in the 1840s and ‘50s. Oooops. Sorry. Did I say something unpleasant there? You don’t want to be reminded of that sort of thing, now, do you?

You’d prefer to remember the days of the Big House, the Irish R.M. and nanny in the nursery reading to the children (Kipling, of course, not that treasonous white nigger Lady Gregory). Ah, remember the days when one could smear a few bogtrotters with blood and then hunt them with the hounds o’er field and dale for the delectation of your cousins visiting from England? That is how one truly treats the peasants. In Ireland they still did it old school. None of that Chartist or Fabian nonsense here!

The dear oul sod in 1911. What a wonderful place it was. Oh yes, you still had the violent echoes of the Land War, midnight burnings and roadside assassinations, collective punishments and destitute families ejected from their homes. Of course there was an enormous, heavily armed, infantry-trained paramilitary police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary, housed in fortified barracks across the country, with a British administrated system of justice (and judges and clerks or their bastard Anglo-Irish off-spring) ferried hither and thither by armed escorts. But what is wrong with that?

No matter that people were still dying of malnutrition and disease on a massive scale, that “mini-famines” were the norm in the West, that millions lacked the ability to read or write, that the prisons were full to overcrowding. Ignore (if you can) the seditious press, the frequent rioting in cities and villages, the acts of vandalism against British symbols and the agents of British power in Ireland.

John Redmond And Britain’s “Irish War”

Put to one side the whole apparatus of a colonial police state, replete with its hordes of paid informers and spies and double-agents which would put any tin-pot Middle East dictator to shame. Forget the later KGB, my friends; the RIC made them look like amateurs! So what if people we imprisoned, tortured, expelled, banned, exiled. Put aside censorship and the suppression of a free press. Or books (you think the Nazis were the only book burners? Think again).

No. This was the heyday of empire. The British Empire. The time when Ireland celebrated its “democratic constitutionalism” in the British system of imperial and colonial government imposed on our small, oppressed and terrorised island – or as the Irish Times would have it, an island that was actually basking in the warm and welcoming glow of the Pax Britannica. Thus we witness the moment of triumph for John Redmond, that will only be slightly eclipsed by an even greater triumph several years later when he will express his support and great satisfaction at the image of young Irish men being placed up against a wall in front of British Army firing squads while thousands of other young Irishmen succumbed to his haranguing cries and fed themselves into the war machine of an empire in its death throes.

John Redmond. What a man. What a willing servant for those with the biggest king’s schilling ready to drop oh so heavily into his greedy, avaricious hand.

Hmmm. Actually, maybe he does represent the tradition of mainstream Irish democracy, after all?

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, Greens… the true inheritors of the Irish Parliamentary Party?

Just like the Irish Times.

John Redmond, The British Ventriloquist

The Myths Of Easter 1916 – And The Truth

The Irish "Twin Towers" - the burned-out ruins of the GPO, destroyed by artillery and machine-gun fire from the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising, Dublin, 1916

The Irish “Twin Towers” – the burned-out ruins of the GPO, destroyed by artillery and machine-gun fire from the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising, Dublin, 1916

Introduction

The annual commemoration of Éirí Amach na Cásca or the Easter Rising is upon us yet again. Some ninety-six years ago on Easter Monday, 1916, members of several Irish Republican organisations came together to unite in a general insurrection against British rule across the island of Ireland. Orchestrated by the secret revolutionary movement of Bráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann or the Irish Republican Brotherhood (popularly known as Na Fíníní or the Fenians) the organisations which took to the streets of the capital city and a number of other towns and districts around the country were to shape Irish history for decades to come. They included:

Óglaigh na hÉireann (ÓnaÉ) “Irish Volunteers (IV)”

Arm Cathartha na hÉireann (ACnaÉ) “Irish Citizen Army (ICA)”

Cumann na mBan (CnamB)

Na Fianna Éireann (NFÉ)

The Hibernian Rifles (HR)

Together these groups comprised the new Arm Poblachtach na hÉireann (APnaÉ), that is the Army of the Irish Republic or Irish Republican Army (IRA) whose purpose was to defend the Irish Republic and the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic proclaimed on the steps of General Post Office or GPO in Dublin. Unfortunately confusion about the timing and nature of the uprising meant a national insurrection failed to materialise and instead a number of isolated risings took place across the nation (largely in Dublin city and county but with smaller actions in Waterford, Wexford, Meath, Louth, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Galway). After several days of fighting during which much of the main thoroughfares of the capital city were destroyed by British ground and naval artillery, the Forces of the Irish Republic in Dublin surrendered to the British Forces. Within days fighting around the rest of the island came to a halt as well (though in fact skirmishes both in Dublin and elsewhere continued for some time, principally through sniping and isolated attacks).

Buildings in Dublin city, capital of the island-nation of Ireland, destroyed during the fighting surrounding the Easter Rising of 1916, principally by British artillery and machine-gun fire

Buildings in Dublin city, capital of the island-nation of Ireland, destroyed during the fighting surrounding the Easter Rising of 1916, principally by British artillery and machine-gun fire

How People Viewed The Rising

The reaction of the general public in Dublin, the centre of British rule in Ireland for 800 years and the most thoroughly colonised region of the island-nation outside of the north-east was mixed. Within the large local British Unionist population (Protestants and Roman Catholics who viewed themselves as Irish and British or exclusively British) the feeling was of hostility to the “Rebels” and support for the British state in Ireland. Since this community was closely invested in the continuance of British rule to protect its privileged political, social, economic and cultural standing it was the one that was the most vocal it its expressions of loyalty to Britain and calls for “retribution” against the “Rebels”, their supporters, families and communities. Indeed when captured or surrendered Irish Republican revolutionaries were paraded by the British Forces through Unionist areas of the city they came under verbal and physical assault from crowds of mainly working-class and some middle-class British loyalists publicly mixing together in ways that hadn’t been seen since the last visit of a British head of state to the island. Earlier during the actual fighting stage of the insurrection crowds of Unionists had also lined the streets to cheer passing British reinforcements in the more middle-class southern suburbs of the city after the soldiers had disembarked from transport-ships arriving from Britain.

On the other hand the reaction of the Irish Nationalist community in Dublin, the majority one in the region, was much more complex. Living under absolute and virtually unbroken British rule for centuries had inculcated in it the idea of the absolute might and mastery of the British Empire: not just in Ireland but across the globe (a belief encouraged by the British state itself through every aspect of intellectual life, from education to literature). The belief that Irish people could successfully rise up against the British in Ireland seemed like madness to many ordinary Dubliners. Most men and women simply couldn’t conceive of such a thing happening (however much they may have desired it). Living in the “police state” created by British colonial rule where the conspicuous presence of the paramilitary police force of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and dozens of British military garrisons around the island was a daily reminder of who the true rulers of the Irish were, very few could imagine anything else. Just as importantly generations of Irish people had been made to believe, through centuries of propaganda, that the Irish as a race were “unfit” to govern themselves: too uneducated, unintelligent, uncivilized.

Soldiers of the British Occupation Forces on guard in front of rubble in the city-centre of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916

Soldiers of the British Occupation Forces on guard in front of rubble in the city-centre of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916

Fearing the reaction of the British to the “Rebellion” (and with good reason given the traditional savagery of British responses in the past) many in the Nationalist community adopted a wait-and-see approach to the would-be revolution. If it failed, as most fully expected, then they did not want to be seen to be on the wrong side – by the British. The Irish people knew through long and bitter experience that those perceived by the colonial authorities as being “traitors” or “treasonous” in their attitudes would have found themselves at the very least forced into unemployment, perhaps homelessness and impoverishment too (and this in a city where institutional discrimination against the Irish Nationalist community remained commonplace and malnutrition, starvation and disease was rampant in the Nationalist inner-city ghettos). Worse they could have been arrested or interned without trial and possibly “deported” or exiled from the country by British diktat. And, the greatest fear of all, they could have simply been rounded up and executed by the British Forces in a series of mass retributions or communal punishments from which there would be no escape.

Yet the history of the Easter Rising is replete with accounts of civilian men, women and children risking their lives to help the revolutionaries throughout the capital city and county. What’s more remarkable is the breadth of people who lent aid and succour to the insurrectionists, a breadth that seemed to cut across class divisions and boundaries. From washerwomen to businessmen, dockers to doctors, barmen to teachers, hundreds of people, both during the fighting and after the surrender did what they could when they could to aid the cause of the Irish Republic. And this at a time when the first British retributions had already taken place: when buildings in the city-centre and neighbouring working-class districts were being pounded by British artillery and machine-gun fire, killing involved and uninvolved alike; when civilians had been murdered in different parts of the city by British Forces, some of them tortured before hand; when some captured “rebels” or suspected “rebels” were simply being executed on the spot by British officers and soldiers infuriated by the temerity of the Irish to rise up against nearly a thousand years of “ordained” and “lawful” British rule in Ireland.

Crowds on O'Connell Street, Dublin, in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916, with buildings destroyed by British artillery and machine-gun fire all around

Crowds on O’Connell Street, Dublin, in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916, with buildings destroyed by British artillery and machine-gun fire all around

In contrast to the affluent and often “ethnically British” southern suburbs of Dublin in the mainly Irish Nationalist areas of the inner city and northern reaches the long lines of captured “rebels” were applauded and cheered by crowds who refused to be cowed by the threatening British troops and watchful RIC policemen. Here and there groups of women and girls would suddenly rush forward pushing little parcels of food and clothes into the hands of the bewildered prisoners, and just as suddenly withdrawing as the British bayonets would dash towards them. Frequently a wounded man or a teenage boy would be dragged or carried away by a surging crowd to disappear into the warren of back streets and alleyways to the fury of the British escorts. Across the city dozens of revolutionaries relied on the sanctuary offered by local people who hid them in cellars and attics, sheds and outhouses, as the British and their willing RIC servants went from home to home, street to street, seeking them out.

Even as the British reinforcements had entered the city proper during the latter days of the Rising in many areas they had met a sullen, uncooperative population (something already experienced by some locally raised soldiers in the so-called “Irish” regiments) and a marked hostility in some districts that puzzled or angered them. It was soon to become clear that the majority of the capital’s population were resentful of the Rising’s failure (even if many never though it would succeed in the first place), paradoxically proud that it had taken place at all, angry at the destruction of so much of the city’s heart by the British Occupation Forces and already aware of the accounts of massacres and outrages carried out by its troops.

Outside of Dublin, in those rural areas where the British writ did not run so firmly, the civilian population was much more vocal in its support. In Galway and Wexford, in small villages and parishes the scattered revolutionaries were greeted as an army of liberation while the handful of local RIC officers who enforced British rule with such iron determination barricaded themselves into their fortified police barracks or fled to the nearest military garrisons. Only when the news of the surrender by the Provisional Government in Dublin reached them did local people in country districts retreat into their customary guise of silence and withdrawal so as not to be singled out for retribution by the British state and its many, many servants. Yet, even here, more “rebels” found a willing and helpful hand than not, and many young men simply discarded their weapons and equipment, returning home to their families and communities who closed ranks around them.

A city in ruins. A view across the battle-ravaged buildings of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916. Much of the capital's centre was destroyed by heavy bombardments from British land and sea artillery

A city in ruins. A view across the battle-ravaged buildings of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916. Much of the capital’s centre was destroyed by heavy bombardments from British land and sea artillery

The Myths of 1916

The great myth of the Easter Rising is the claim that the decision by the British to execute the members of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic and other principal figures who had participated in the insurrection led to the turning of public opinion in Ireland in favour of the revolution. The implication is that before the retributive deaths by British firing squads the Irish people as a whole were opposed to the “Rebels” and were accepting of the need to put down the “Rebellion”. However as we have seen nothing further could be from the truth.

The great failure of the British was not that they ignored the wishes of the Irish people and executed Pádraig Mac Piarais, President of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Irish Republic, and all the other signatories to the Proclamation. Their failure was that they did listen to the wishes of the Irish people and their demands for violent retribution. Unfortunately it was the wrong Irish people. British military commanders and politicians already convinced of the need for a public show of force through the killing of the leaders of the Rising needed simply enough public encouragement and momentum to go through with it. In Britain there was plenty with demands for blood from across the political spectrum. But they also found it in Ireland. Not from Irish Ireland: but from British Ireland. Amongst the British Unionist population who dominated the locally raised British military and paramilitary forces, the judiciary, the colonial civil service and administration, the business classes and landed aristocracy, and above all the media elite of the time: journalists, editors and newspaper owners.

Rubble is cleared away from destroyed buildings on the quays in Dublin in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916

Rubble is cleared away from destroyed buildings on the quays in Dublin in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916

The British population of Ireland demanded that the British Empire seek retribution upon its and their enemies. By baying for the blood of the “Rebels” the Unionists expressed their loyalty to the existing order while protecting and securing their own place in it. Many believed that in the aftermath of the executions Ireland’s position in the so-called “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” would be secured forever. To some the insurrection had been a blessing in disguise and now the people of Britain would see the deceit and untrustworthiness of the “native, Catholic, Gaelic Irish” and that the limited reforms of previous decades could be undone. Most expected the British to impose military conscription upon Ireland in order to force tens of thousands of men into the ranks of the British Armed Forces to fight in the trenches of World War I and that the Nationalist politicians of Ireland would be rendered mute and even more ineffective than normal.

However as we know history took quite a different turn. The British soon realised their mistake in listening to the advice of their “West British” co-nationals in Ireland and within eight years the Unionist population in four-fifths of Ireland was abandoned to its own fate as the British colony on the island-nation was reduced to a bloody rump centred in the north-eastern corner of the country where the single greatest concentration of an “ethnically” British population lived as a local majority. But that, as they say, is another story.

A group of British army officers pose beneath the statue of Parnell with the ‘Irish Republic’ flag that had flown over the GPO in O’Connell Street during the Easter Rising in 1916

Suggested Links

If you want to learn more about the Easter Rising of 1916, the National Library of Ireland maintains a permanent online exhibition, The 1916 Rising: Personalities and Perspectives. You can view the flash-site or view individual guides in PDF format here.

A mounted-patrol of British troops in Dublin moving through military barricades near the Four Courts in the days immediately after the Easter Rising of 1916

A mounted-patrol of British troops in Dublin moving through military barricades near the Four Courts in the days immediately after the Easter Rising of 1916

Some more interesting sites are:

The Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation

The War Of Independence

The Irish Story

The Irish War

The Easter Rising

An Chéad Dáil Éireann

The Irish Republic

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic: Notes From Dublin

The 1916 Rising: Then and Now

The Irish Rebellion of 1916 and its Martyrs: Erin’s tragic Easter

Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, Easter, 1916

The Pursuit of Sovereignty & the Impact of Partition, 1912–1949

The Foundation and Development of Na Fianna Éireann

Troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a British Unionist militia in Ireland, move into Dublin to support the British Forces during the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of UVF men in the capital - regarded by many as terrorists - worsened tensions in the city

Troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a British Unionist militia in Ireland, move into Dublin to support the British Forces during the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of UVF men in the capital – regarded by many as terrorists – worsened tensions in the city

Troops of the British Occupation Forces pose for the cameras at a street-barricade in Dublin probably in the days immediately after the Easter Rising of 1916

Troops of the British Occupation Forces pose for the cameras at a street-barricade in Dublin probably in the days immediately after the Easter Rising of 1916

Members of the British Occupation Forces in Dublin shelter behind an improvised barrier made up of wooden barrels during or shortly after the Easter Rising of 1916

Members of the British Occupation Forces in Dublin shelter behind an improvised barrier made up of wooden barrels during or shortly after the Easter Rising of 1916

British troops seal off a street in Dublin city-centre with an improvised barrier during or shortly after the Easter Rising of 1916

British troops seal off a street in Dublin city-centre with an improvised barrier during or shortly after the Easter Rising of 1916

During fighting in the southern outskirts of the city-centre British troops crawl over a bridge while under fire, with possibly the body of a dead soldier in the background. The Easter Rising of 1916

During fighting in the southern outskirts of the city-centre British troops crawl over a bridge while under fire, with possibly the body of a dead soldier in the background. The Easter Rising of 1916

POWs of the Irish Republican Army under British military escort being marched through the city-centre of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916

POWs of the Irish Republican Army under British military escort being marched through the city-centre of Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916

POWs of the Irish Republican Army under British military escort being marched along the quays in Dublin to detention camps in the capital in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916

POWs of the Irish Republican Army under British military escort being marched along the quays in Dublin to detention camps in the capital in the days after the Easter Rising of 1916

Countess Markievicz, an officer of the ICA-component of the Irish Republican Army and one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, being held in an outside cell by the British Forces following her capture

Countess Markievicz, an officer of the ICA-component of the Irish Republican Army and one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, being held in an outside cell by the British Forces following her capture

Defiant Irish children left homeless after the bombardment of Dublin by the British Occupation Forces are pictured in temporary pastoral care in the days following the Easter Rising of 1916

Defiant Irish children left homeless after the bombardment of Dublin by the British Occupation Forces are pictured in temporary pastoral care in the days following the Easter Rising of 1916