So….Oxford Street, Belfast…the old Christian Brothers Primary School and the launch of the programme of events to commemorate the Easter Rising and the connexion to South and East Belfast.
There will of course be events in other parts of the city of Belfast and Norn Iron.
Three young people…two male and one female…looking very smart in Irish Volunteer and Cumann na mBan uniforms.
But surprisingly few young people. The attendees were mostly male and as old as I am. Most seemed to be “ex-prisoners”.
The question….to what extent is this event inclusive to South and East Belfast…to nationalists and republicans (I was the only member of SDLP present) and to what extent was the event a “Sinn Féin” event.
The event was hosted by Máirtin Ó Muilleoir, MLA for South Belfast. As is his way, he name-checked several people in the room, including Tom Hartley, Bobby Storey, Deirdre Hargey and Niall Ó Donnghaile.
He noted that the Taoiseach had just announced the General Election and Ó Muilleoir looked forward to good Sinn Féin performances in 2016, on both sides of the border. i thought it better not to reveal my “Team SDLP” tshirt and shout “Vote SDLP!!!”
A young woman led the singing of Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile and Ó Muilleoir introduced the keynote speaker, Bobby Storey, referencing his contribution to another phase of the republican struggle.
Bobby Storey referencing South and East Belfast figures who had fought the Rising…the Corr Sisters, Joseph Campbell (an “Intelligence Officer ” which Bobby seemed to find amusing) and of course Charlie Monahan, drowned during gun running.
Good that he pointed out that the republican ideals were actually Belfast ideas from before 1798 and the role of people like Dennis McCullough, the IRB and Gaelic League in Belfast.
For me, the Easter Rising is a stand alone event but Storey stated that the centenary of the Rising will be linked to the 35th Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes in 1981.
Martin Ó Muilleoir then name-checked all the other people he had missed out first time around…Geraldine McAteer and Dermot Kennedy (who will be the Sinn Féin candidate in Strangford in May.
Tom Hartley spoke briefly about the history of Oxford Street CBS.
And then the young woman singer led us in our National Anthem.
Was it inclusive? No. But there are limits to how inclusive an event commemorating Easter 1916 can be. It certainly has to involve more than Sinn Féin and cant be about other “phases of the struggle”. Nor can it be about the Somme…or unionists…it is about the German allies of our Republic.Nor is it about the War of Independence or the Civil War.
It is about the Proclamation, it is about the three week period between the landing of Roger Casement to the execution of James Connolly.
It is not entirely Sinn Féins fault. While SDLP are absolutely right that the Easter Rising does not belong to one Party, the SDLP has not thrown itself fully into full hearted commemoration or celebration of the birth of our nation state.It is too nuanced….with the false god of “shared history” paraded before us.
Learned academic papers and seminars and re-appraisals are all very well but basically, we need a parade.
EDIT….Niall Ó Donghaile has contacted me to say that there were some unionists at this launch and probably some people who are not political.