When I fiirst signed into Slugger O’Toole, just about the first threads I read were about the so-called Decade of Centenaries, the series of events including Easter 1916 and the Somme 1916….rwo events that are divisive in Norn Iron and yet too iconic for Nationalists and Unionists to be ignored.
My belief then and now is that History is too things….the original event AND the subsequent interpretation of the event. The fact is that the original event remains unchanged but the interpretation is subject to constant change.
We tend to see History thru a prism…we see Easter 1916 thru the song “The Foggy Dew” or maybe “Grace” and we see the Somme thru “Blackadder Goes Forth” and a narrative of Lions led by Donkeys.
Basically the events of 1916 and afterwards produced two narratives. The Victors demanded that History was written to order. Thats how these things go. The problem occurs when there are two victors.
Effectively the Republic of Ireland “won” …in the south. And effectively “Norn Iron” won ….in the north. Thus the 1916 story as produced by historians in the south reflects the heroism and sacrifice of the Rebels. And up north the historians give us a version of dying for king and country in the mud of France and Flanders. Both sides made a blood sacrifice.
Those historians who wrote the first versions of what would become conventional History served their political masters rather than Truth and traditionalists will note the revisionism of the next generation …and the next …and the next. While some want to re-dress a balance in favour of accuracy, others seem politically committed to a new agenda.
AGENDA IS THE ENEMY OF HISTORY.
And really no Historian worthy of the name should be sucked into writing for a new agenda. A History degree is in its own way as sacred as a medical degree. Three years or longer acquiring and using the skills to see any contemporary event with a historical perspective….to see any contemporary event on the TV news and immediately think of a precedent.
We have a new agenda in Ireland….”shared” History. It is a seductive lie. The honourable search for a “shared future” needs a stronger foundation than a lie.
The Rising is a unique event, with which I identify …being as it marked the establishment of the Republic and established the fact that I am an Irish citizen. The Somme…a uniqu event…means nothing to me. Both events lose the uniqu quality if they are packaged together.
The Easter Rising is best understood as an event that lasted three weeks …from the reading of the Proclamation by Padraig Pearse on 24th April 1916 and ended witn the execution of James Connolly on 12th May 1916.
There is no need for second guessing waht it was all about. The intent of the seven men who signed the Proclamation could not be more clear. The sacrifice of the men and women who fought forFreedom couldnotbe more clear.
So…a Fine Gael led government can not commemorate an act proclaiming Irish sovreignty by talking about the European Union. Sinn Féin IRA cannot commemorate an event that spoke about about an alien government which fostered division. Politicians cannot commemorate an event that proclaimed treating the children of the nation equally and be oblivious to the Magdalene launderies, industrial schools and orphans sent to Australia.
Those strange people who invite us to join them in their multiple identities….Irish, British, Northern Irish cannot commemorate an event that claims and expects the fealty of every Irishman and Irishwoman.
And those letsgeralongerists cannot commemorate Easter and the Somme together and ignore the fact the Proclamation recognised that the Germans were allies of the Republic of Ireland.
The Easter Rising was what it was …a glorious and unapologetic act of Treason…..it cannot be misused as an agenda.