We are in the fourth day of 2016 and I already wish it was 2017. Later today I might take a very large sleeping tablet but I am not aware of any that will keep me asleep until 2017. Maybe if I walked into a local hospital and asked them to put me into a coma for twelve months….well that is still Plan B (too drastic???)
I was looking forward to celebrating (no weasly “commemorating” for me) the centenary of the Easter RIsing and looking forward to ignoring the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
But Fate has dealt me a cruel hand. People will quite rightly talk about building a “shared future” and yet they will be obliged to talk shite about “our shared history”.
The logistics work against a genuine year….the key one in the so-called Decade of Centenaries. A Dáil Election…Easter (twice! ) as a part of the Christian Year in March…AND a calendar date commemorating the Rising in April….Assembly Elections in the North…the Somme in July.
And dont under-estimate the European Football Championships in France…which will give football fans from Norn Iron and West Britons in Dublin a chance to gather at memorials to commemorate the “Irish” Regiments. The LetsGetAlongerists will be heavily involved in this….William Cawley, Paul Clarke and Stephen Nolan might even be on the same plane to France with Martin McGuinness, Arlene Foster and Tom Hartley. At least the Irish Government has it own jet.
But….seriously expect a specially designed “joint” T-shirt, a football match among fans in no-mans land….an excellent photo-opportunity for a minor English “royal” like “Prince Harry”. The European Football Championships is too good an opportunity for LetsGetAlongerists to miss.
Pass the sick-bag. You know I am right. The Decade of Centenaries was the topic of discussion when I started commenting on Slugger O’Toole in early 2010. It was against that background that I first used the term “LetsGetAlongerism” and later in the year, we will see LetsGetAlongerism in all its disgusting reality.
The alternatives dont seem much better. The initial Irish Government plans “Ireland Imagines” were so risible that there has been a re-think. But the void is likely to be exploited by Sinn Féin seeking to portray themselves as the true inheritors of the legacy of Pearse, Clarke, Connolly and the rest.
Sinn Féin will have more luck convincing people in West Belfast than in South Dublin….but the more “official Ireland” re-thinks 1916, the easier it will be for Sinn Féin to convince people beyond its core supporters and in TWO Election Campaigns, they can benefit.
SDLP are in a position that I do not envy. As always, SDLP fights elections on two fronts…against Sinn Féin and Alliance. It can lose votes to these parties and gain votes from them. It is a delicate balance. If a SDLP candidate in (say) Armagh says something “too nationalist or republican”, it will be siezed on by the Alliance Party. If a candidate in say South Belfast says something which is “too LetsGetAlongerist” it will be siezed on by Sinn Féin. And perhaps, made even more difficult by the emergence of anti-austerity candidates and the Green Party.
I am not impressed by the SDLPs approach. Thru the Irish Governments planning with other organisations, SDLP is semi-detached thru a former MLA. But much of the plans are irrelevant …unfortunately. It would not be feasible for the Irish Defence Forces to deliver the National Flag to local schools and explain the protocol. “Catholic” schools even with a 99% Sinn Féin or SDLP parental support in Crossmaglen or Downpatrick will still be obliged to be nuetral in a divided society. And more so, it would be impossible in towns like Larne and Bangor where the parental support would be at best 50%….so the initiatives will come thru cultural and language organisations….GAA and Conradh na Gaeilige …and the political parties ….and Sinn Féin and SDLP are the only candidates. And once again Sinn Féin can take part whole-heartedly while SDLP will be handicapped by constantly explaining the nuance of their position.
SDLP has missed an opportunity to emphasise its republican credentials.
One of the great “what ifs” in Irish History is what would have happened if the Easter Rising had not taken place. It is a mistake to think that the Rising was just between the British and Irish or Unionist and “Nationalist” …it was in some ways the temporary end of a struggle between “Home Rulers” (soft nationalists who would have been happy with an independent Ireland part of the (then) British Empire and “republican ultras” who sought an independent Republic.
Who won that struggle? Well, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had founder members in the GPO and the Republic was established…..but both owe their origins to the subsequent civil war and while British attrocities would have helped legitimise and increase Republicanism and enhance Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael benefitted from old “nationalism” and even latent “unionism”.
Nominally the Treaty that ended the War of Independence was established an imperfect Free State …more imperfect thru Partition …and while 1937 and 1949 established the Republic in all constitutional sense….the dream of a true all-Ireland Republic is made more difficult by the legacy of the northern conflict, mmembership of the so-called European Union, the Good Friday Agreement conditions which re-wrote the Irish Constitution…and the Eurozone currency.
Of course it should be pointed out that unionists NEVER compromise. It would be a nice thought if a united Home Rule Ireland could have evolved into something better. But that overlooks the fact that unionists were as opposed to Home Rule as any notional Republic.
Of course the History of 1916 was written to a narrative which built the Irish Nation and the Northern Statelet and Easter Rising and the Somme…blood sacrifices. And there are revisionist historians who will willingly re-write it all for the new LetsGetAlongerist narrative.
The LetsGetAlongerist victory in 2016….is the notion that both blood sacrifices are equally valid. Let us be clear …in the context of being an Irish citizen, only one of these events is part of the Irish ethos.
Republicans…such as myself within SDLP should have no problem with celebrating Easter 1916 but it is an unfortunate fact that there are people within SDLP too anxious to be seen in a photo-opportunity in France….wearing black and “look at me, I am so cool cos I am wearing a poppy”.
Some will of course argue that 2016 is a time for “reflection”, we must consider the words of the Proclamation and measure it against the failings in respect of children of the nation, women, petty corruption and banking scandals and “all together now…the post-nationalist reality (????) of a united Europe”. Bollox!
Of course it is right and proper that the role of women (not just Countess Markievicz) is acknowledged in the Easter Rising. And pacifists like Francis Sheehy-Skeffington murdered by the British …and civilian deaths (mostly at the hands of the British) and even the role of Irish police….but there should never be any sympathy for the British Army casualties. That goes too far.
Everyone….Fianna Fáil, Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin will attempt ownership of the Rising 1916. The SDLP do themselves no favours by not embracing it whole-heartedly. The Party fears others taking ownership, especially in the North….but thats a challenge that cannot be met by nuance. Necessarily, the more “inclusive” the commemoration, the more compromises and nuance is needed.
A few months ago the Japanese were annoyed that the Chinese celebrated victory over Japan in World War Two. The triumphalism was “unhelpful” but how exactly can China be blamed for that.
Commemorating the Easter Rising is necessarily EXCLUSIVE. It is the key event in the (imperfect) foundation of the Nation of which I am a citizen. It can not involve those who (then and now) seek to limit Irishness to a mere ethnicity..
Therefore the Easter Rising is a stand-alone event….not to be associated with other events that are a contradiction.
In the case of 1916-2016….there is no need for lectures and seminars to re-write or second guess the intentions of 1916. No need for risible concepts about having a new Proclamation that sets out Irish values for the next centenary. For we actually already KNOW the intent lof the men and women who roae in Rebellion. The seven men (yes they were all men) who signed the Proclamation knew they would die or be executed and they left us (Irish citizens) with their intentions amazingly clear.
It seems like its a celebration for Irish citizens. This is the crucial event that made the concept of Irish citizenship. So we should have a party without worrying that the wording on the invitation might offend some people who would not want to go to the Party anyway. SDLP should not be organising a BBQ and making sure that there is a vegetarian option for unionists and LetsGetAlongerists.
There is of course no necessity for SDLP to organise a party in the first place but if you are…do it right. Let others organise the Somme nonsense. And either attend or dont attend.
Just dont have this “joint history” nonsense.
As things stand…an Irish citizen can cherry-pick from the official celebrations and the wide range of unofficial celebrations organised by republicans (not exclusively Sinn Féin types) but there does not seem any viable alternative for republicans in the north, who are not Sinn Féin supporters. The initiative has been handed to Sinn Féin in the north.
What should SDLP have done? Well I am not able to be open about what SDLP actually DID do….so let me present a scenario.
1….it would have been a good idea for the former SDLP MLA who is on th Irish Governments panel to report back to the party. And while I cant be specific as to whether this did happen it would have been better to have it more than a month before the Party Conference.
2….SDLP HQ might have invited and selected people to attend such a presentation. The presentation might have included SDLP members with a an interest in the subject, who have blogged about Conflict Resolution and even lectured on it. Someone like (random thought) ….me.
3….If such a meeting took place and I am not saying that it did, it might have been apparent that the old duffer warning against LetsGetAlongerism and making a case for the Easter Rising as a stand alone event…was actually making a damn good case.
4….that the meeting (if it took place) seemed to agree that there should be a follow up BEFORE the SDLP Conference.
5….that no second meeting took place before or after Conference.
So…did those people who may or may not have attended a meeting that I cant say took place have any real purpose?
For me the case for Easter Celebration to be a unique event is clear. As Robert Ballagh put it in Augusr at An Féile….try to commemorate everything and we commemorate nothing.
For me, the Easter Rising is an event that lasts less than a few weeks. From Good Friday and the arrest of Roger Casement thru that weekend of decision-making, from printing the Proclamation, thru saying those last goodbyes thru reading the Proclamation, thru the fighting, thru surrender, thru court martial thru the executions and the final execution of James Connolly.
The Proclamation “does what it says on the tin”. The sovreignty of Ireland, the ownership of the land, universal suffrage (the first such statement of female suffrage), the rebuke to the social engineering that divided the nation.
Necessarily it excluded the British…they can have no part in the celebration. Necessarily it excludes those who were fighting for the British in France and Turkey….for it proclaims that the Germans!!!! are allies of the Republic of Ireland. More logical to invite the President of Germany than the “Queen of England”. It condemns those that sought to divide the Irish people….yet hard to see a more blatant example than the IRA Campaign of 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Yet Sinn Féin claim to be the direct descendants of Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and the others. And for non-violent republicans there is the incomfortable truth that the men and women of 1916….DID resort to armed revolution. If you believe they were wrong to do so…then dont be a hypocrite. …dont honour them.
Obviously the Proclamation states that theIrish Republic is entitled to and claims the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. It is simple enough…the Irish Republic has my allegiance. If you are not Irish…no problem. Nobody expects you to compromise yourself. If you are one of those wierdos who would say “its complicated….I am defined by so much more….I am Irish/British/both/ northern….and I define myself by my age,gender and sexuality” then plainly a celebration involving the Proclamation is not for you. Just move along and let the rest ….Irish citizens from four provinces, our new citizens who have chosen to live here, and regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality geton with it.
Me? I want to play a full part…here in the north….and that means GAA organised events and hopefully SDLP events but please spare me the hand-wringing angst about “shared history” shite.
Is there an alternative in the north? Well only Sinn Féin organised, promoted or influenced events. Do I stand with them? ….hmmm doesnt it say something in Proclamation that a noble cause should not be dishonoured by “cowardice and rapine” …..so the people responsible for Bloody Friday, Birmingham bombing, Claudy, La Mon…..they have little right to celebrate Easter 1916.