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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 12, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    Stirring up Debate on 2016

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    I don’t agree with all of it and I’m not sure I even agree with any of it, but former senator Eoghan Harris’s controversial speech on the 1916 centenary at yesterday’s Liam Lynch commemoration should at least stir up some debate on the subject of the relationship between nationalism and unionism. Contrary views welcome from all you commenters. Here is the text issued to the media:-

    Towards 2016 : Re-thinking Republicanism: Re-thinking Unionism.

    Speech by Eoghan Harris at annual General Liam Lynch Commemoration, Kilcrumper Cemetery, Fermoy County Cork, 11 Sept 2011. Embargo 5pm, Sept 11.

    It is early 1922. The black cloud of civil war is coming closer. Liam Lynch, Chief of Staff of the anti-Treaty IRA, walking with Eamon DeValera, in the Knockmealdown Mountains, turns to him sadly and asks: “ What do you think Tom Clarke would have thought of all this?’ Dev replies tersely “ Tom Clarke is dead. Our problems are our own.’

    That is as true today it was 88 years ago. Our problems are our own. Whether we want to roll back the recession or reach for a future republic, the first step is to forget the fantasies of the past, and face the truth, no matter how tough a truth it turns out to be.

    Liam Lynch was a brave man. He was also a humane man. His gallant treatment of captured British soldiers and members of the RIC, contrasts with the cruelty of some other Cork commanders, and reflects credit on the 2nd North Cork Brigade.

    But if Liam Lynch was humane, he was also human. Like all human beings he could be wrong. He was wrong about the Treaty. He was wrong in obsessing about the Oath of Allegiance. He was wrong not to walk away from Civil War. Above all wrong in believing that the basic problem was between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    Like all republicans since 1916, Liam Lynch never faced the fact that the fundamental problem was not to break the connection with England, but to create a connection with Northern Protestants- who rightly feared a repressive Roman Catholic Republic.

    Given what we now know about the cover- up of child sex abuse, about the secret cabal mentioned by the Archbishop of Dublin, about the arrogance of the Vatican in dealing with the Irish Republic, we might admit that some Protestant fears about Rome Rule were well founded.

    These Protestant fears fed into the formation of Northern Ireland. Unionist fear of the Roman Catholic minority, and Catholic nationalist reaction to these fears, between them spawned a sectarian state, with bigotry on both sides.

    Accordingly the first duty of all who called themselves Republicans should have been re-assure Northern Unionists that their Protestant and British identities would be cherished. Remember they were the “children of the nation ” referred to in the 1916 Proclamation.

    If Republicans really respected Wolfe Tone’s message, they would have lot more time for working class Loyalists than fat cat Anglo- Irish bankers. Northern Protestants only want to keep their British identity. They do no harm to the men of no property in the Irish Republic.

    But the bankers of the Irish national bourgeoisie did do us harm. Did us harm while waving the green flag. Did us harm while brazenly telling us –as one of them told us – that he wanted to show he was as good as the old guard Protestant bankers.

    He was not. My generation remembers the rectitude of the Protestant bank managers of the old Munster and Leinster bank. They minded our money as if it were their own. Had Irish banking stayed in their hands we would not be in the mess we are today.

    In 1922, the Free State lost a million Northern Protestants. By 1926 it had lost a third of its southern Protestants as well- a total of 107,000 people. Those who went were not big lords looking down from big Anglo-Irish castles. They were ordinary Irish people: farmers, shopkeepers, clerks, rural people, people that Thomas Davis would call “ racy of the soil.”

    Some left because they had served Britain. Some left because they felt their lives were in danger. Some had seen their neighbours murdered – 73 in the Cork City area alone. But all of of them were afraid.

    This flight, of which we still fear to speak, is a dark hole in our history. Far from protecting these defenceless Protestants, republicans actively took part in many of the sectarian actions against them. And their supporters to this day are still in denial, still ducking and dodging about what was done.

    Today sectarianism is still the biggest barrier to a better future in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement, although an amazing grace, has made no dent in the divisions between the two traditions. That is why Republicans must now finally step up to the mark, or stop claiming to be followers of Wolfe Tone.

    Coming up to the Centenaries of 1912 and 1916, where Unionists will recall the Ulster Covenant, and republicans the Easter Rising, it is crucial that both traditions do not settle for triumphalism but take another look at their lethal legacies.

    Let me cut to the chase and make three points:-

    First: both states on this island have flawed and bloody title deeds. The treasonable actions of Edward Carson in 1912, and the gun-running of 1914 both fed the blood sacrifice blasphemy of Patrick Pearse. And 1912 and 1916, for all their physical bravery, ended the prospect of a peaceful evolution to home rule and an all-Ireland parliament.

    Second: we should not use 2016 to cover up past abuses. Republicans should admit their historical responsibility for much of the murder and mayhem on this island since 1916. A public admission that republicans failed to honour their high calling would put pressure on Unionists to review their past actions.

    Some Unionists have already tried to make amends. Gusty Spence and the Combined Loyalist Military Command went much further than the Provisional IRA when they expressed “true and abject remorse” for crimes committed against Catholics. So did David Trimble when he told his Nobel Prize audience that the Northern state “ had been a cold house for Catholics.”

    Third: Coming up to 2016 we need a new platform, a televised talking shop, convention, chamber – call it what you will – to facilitate a continual public conversation, not within Northern Ireland, but between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

    The lack of public and popular interaction between the two states is striking. Belfast is only 104 miles from Dublin, two hours by road. Yet the majority in each society seems as indifferent to the Lives of Others as the old East and West Germany.

    Neither the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Assembly, nor the cross-border bodies provide for a continual public conversation between the new pluralist Irish Republic and the progressive currents of Northern Unionism.

    The Irish Republic recently welcomed the Queen. Surely it’s time we started a permanent public conversation with her loyal subjects in Northern Ireland about every subject under the sun? We might even persuade Sinn Fein to stop using the Irish language as an ideological baton

    A civil conversation between the two major traditions could only do good. As my Roscommon mother would say:“ Nior bhris focal maith fiacal riamh.” (A good word never broke teeth) Republicans and Unionists could start by reviewing the record of their own side so as to produce a reciprocal response from the other side.

    We could start the conversation by asking why Protestant Unionists pulled back from republicanism. Protestant Republicans invented Republicanism. They founded the United Irishmen in 1798. They put their trust in democracy and the common people. They rejected Absolute Monarchy, whether it came from King or Pope.

    In recent years the Irish Republic has come to share some of these Northern Protestant fears about Papal influence. Enda Kenny’s recent blistering broadside against the Vatican is the authentic voice of that democratic republican spirit. And if if we look closer we see the same democratic spirit in locally- run organisations like the Orange Order and the GAA Club.

    So why are we still so far apart? Some of the blame can be laid at the door of Unionist bigotry. But most of the blame belongs to Republicans who failed to follow Wolfe Tone and find a formula to unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. The big question is this: Why did Republicanism lose its way?

    Republicanism lost its way because it never really respected the rights of Northern Protestants to be both British and Irish. Republicanism lost its way because it mocked legitimate Protestant fears that Home Rule mean Rome Rule. Republicanism lost its way by becoming a closed, conspiratorial secular religion as arrogant and atrophied as the Roman Catholic Church.

    Republicanism lost its way by believing that its own secular priests, the leaders of the IRA, knew better than the common people, by defending these secular IRA priests when they murdered innocent people, by looking after republican abusers rather than their victims, and by listening to republican theologians like John Mitchel and Patrick Pearse.

    John Mitchel set himself up as slaver in America and sent two sons to fight for the US Confederacy. His pathological hatred of Britain deeply influenced his devout disciple Patrick Pearse, who wanted to deny his own British background, and sublimated his deepest and darkest urges by taking the lusty, life-loving republicanism of Wolfe Tone, and turning it into a death-wish that defied mass popular democracy.

    This contempt for democratic groups marked the birth of Sinn Fein. Republicans, working through the the IRB, infiltrated and hi-jacked every mass popular movement of a resurgent Irish people and reduced every fresh idea to a narrow ideological instrument.

    Republican agents took over the GAA from 1884, the Gaelic League and the Co-op Movement from 1913; the ITGWU from 1900. IRB purists pushed out Douglas Hyde founding President out of the Gaelic League, marginalised Horace Plunkett and his Co-op movement and sidelined Maurice Davin, first President of the GAA.

    In 1912 they got a big boost from Unionism. In September 1912 Unionists challenged the constitutional rule of law which they claimed to hold dear. On ‘Ulster Day’ 28 September 1912 , over five hundred thousand Unionists signed Sir Edward Carson’s Ulster Covenant pledging themselves to defeat Home Rule at all costs.

    Carson’s challenge to constititutional rule in 1912, gave Pearse permission to play the physical force card in 1916. This twin legacy of Pearse and Carson was a moral and psychological disaster. Because once they turned on the tap of physical force, the blood never stopped flowing.

    The Rising of 1916, in which my grandfather took part, began a circular process of bloodletting, pause for pardon, and renewal of bloodshed. Each generation of republicans would first defy the popular will, then murder and maim, then use the inevitable reprisals to work up a nationalist fever, then seek retrospective pardon from a temporary majority, then become armchair republicans, and from these armchairs applaud a new set of armed applicants.

    This closed circle of violence, pardon, and more violence has continued for the past 100 years. Right now it is replaying with the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, or what I call the Recurring IRA. It will continue forever unless Republicans cut the cord to the dead generations of Republican Cardinals who claimed to know better than the men of no property.

    Republicans are always reluctant to express remorse for the butcher’s bill that they ran up from 1916 to the end of Northern Troubles. And while they are the first to start shooting, they never mourn any dead but their own. And I speak from personal experience.

    Growing up in a republican family I was taught to remember some Irishmen and to forget others. My own grandfather, a 1916 veteran and member of the First Cork Brigade, started out as an idealist with Terence McSwiney. But by 1920 he had hardened his heart and could no longer see the man, only the uniform.

    So he stayed silent when on Wednesday 17th of November, 1920, Sgt. James O’Donoghue who lived around the corner in Tower Street, and who never carried a gun, was shot dead on his way home. Stayed silent when every funeral home in Cork City , obeying IRA orders, refused O Donoghue’s family a hearse. Stayed silent when his stricken wife and children had to hire a private car to bring the body back to Cahirciveen. For shame.

    My grandfather was a 1916 veteran, a physically and morally brave man who remains my role model in all areas except one. Like most republicans he was a moral coward when it came to challenging republican peer pressure. So he went to his grave without a word of remorse about that foul deed, whatever he might have felt in his heart.

    He was not alone in his selective mourning. In 1916 Republicans remember the 64 dead Irish Volunteers but not the 250 dead Dublin civilians. In the War of Independence, Republicans remember the 550 IRA volunteers- but not the scores of southern Protestants they shot in sectarian atrocities or the 404 Irishmen of the RIC whom they killed for doing their duty.

    Looking back at the Civil War, Republicans remember the 77 republicans executed by the Free State- but not who began the shooting nor the corrosive hatreds it left behind. And after the civil war Republicans became even more sectarian.

    During the 1930’s Protestant workers from the Shankill who marched at Bodenstown had their banners torn down. During World War 2 republicans degenerated further and flirted with fascism- while berating as traitors the 6,000 brave Irishmen and women in British uniforms, who died fighting Fascism

    It got worse. In 1970, the Provisional IRA pushed aside Northern Civil Rights Movement and started shooting. Again Republicans only remember their own martyrs. They discard deaths that do not fit their mould: the 2000 civilians, the 302 Irish members of RUC, the 763 working class British squaddies who were sent to keep the peace.

    Looking back over their actions in the past 100 years, why won’t Republicans express remorse for bringing so much bloodshed and suffering into the lives of the men and women of no property ? Are they as arrogant as the Roman Catholic Church? So steeped in self-regard that they cannot bring themselves to say sorry ?

    Whether Irish Republicanism – or indeed the Roman Catholic Church- is capable of remorse and restitution is moot. But in 2016 the Irish Republic must not play the Recurring IRA’s game by waving a green flag or glamourising the gunmen of 1916 or 1921. The cult of Michael Collins is no less lethal than the cult of Liam Lynch

    Likewise, Unionists should remember that for centuries the British elites saw them as the hunchbacks of the family, best kept hidden in distant bell towers. Remember that southern pluralists like John Bruton and Conor Cruise O’Brien protected Unionists both from pan-nationalist conspiracies and from the cynical wheezes of British Prime Ministers who cared more about NATO than NICRA.

    Above all, Republicans and Unionists should remember the dead.

    The first public act of 2016 should be for the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland to raise a joint memorial, straddling the Border , to all victims of armed actions on this island, be they IRA or Loyalists, southern Protestants, RIC, working class British squaddies, RUC constables or soldiers of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

    Such a memorial should include the names of both the Crean brothers: Sergeant Con Crean of the RIC who was slain at Ballinaspittle and his brother, Tom Crean, the Royal Navy Petty Officer and hero of the South Pole who had to come home and keep silent.

    Let us resolve in 2016 to give men like Liam Lynch the respect that is due to all men who died bravely. Let us treat them, however, as fallible human beings, not as infallible Republican Popes.

    Let us step out of their shadow. Our problems are our problems. Let’s start solving them. Let’s get real. Let’s raise up a real Republic.

    • Nick Folley says:

      @46 “and certainly far worse than any grip the church of ireland had on Northern Ireland”

      Umm, are you forgetting about the Orange Order, then?

    • Kynos says:

      War is always based on Lies. No better example that the one Ireland has been participating in by stealth since March 2003, under cover of Her ersatz ‘neutrality’ and laws against torture. Who is worse? The driver of the Auschwitz Railway or the ones who coal and oil it or the ones who conceive of it or the ones who build the engines and the cattle cars or the ones who make the selection at the end when it comes to a halt against that wooden buffer stop they have these days in Yad Vashem under the adamantine metal lie ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’? Ireland may say She does not accept the values of warring nations but She sure has no problem accepting their 30 pieces of silver while piously protesting that She’s anything but what She is. A war whore. No different from any oul’ hag in a creagh back in the 1690s cowering beneath her shawleen while slicing off the fingers of the Fallen for to steal their signet rings.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      If it were not for 1916 your grandmother wouldn’t have reported about hardening attitudes and the VC recipient would have received the hero’s welcome they deserved and by the way that VC person would have received an equally cold receiption in the south.

      Are we to believe that if Germany had won the war that it would have granted full independence to Ireland as a Republic? You need to bring yourself up to date on German history in 1918 and the type of government it had then and it’s a bit of a stretch to think that in 1914 the UK or France (is it only the UK getting more land that annoys you?)

      I think the HR Bill in 1914 was about as much as we are were capable of dealing with – similar to how all those African countries made such a mess of their independence – our only saving grace was that we were in western Europe otherwise heaven knows how much worse things would have been.

      Sure the OO is a bigoted group but I don’t think the south has a leg to stand on when it comes to who inflicted the worst horrors on minorities and we have the full range of reports into the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of man, woman and children fully facilitated by the organs of the State and the people of that state who allowed it to happen.

      The fact is not one of the aims of 1916 have been achieved so what is it we are to celebrate in 2016?

    • Nick Folley says:

      @ 53 “I think the HR Bill in 1914 was about as much as we are were capable of dealing with – ”

      You clearly subscribe to discredited 19th-century style social Darwinism, inasmuch as you believe the Irish incapable of self government (not to mention your comments on Catholic northern families being the architect of their own problems – sure, everyone is, to some extent; but you leave a gaping hole where northern society and politics are concerned).

      So, none of the aims of 1916 were achieved, according to you? Well, at least 26 counties are a republic, and if the Free State wasn’t everything the rebels of 1916 hoped it would be, I don’t think you can blame them for trying. Since you are a big fan of WW1 and Britain’s role therein, perhaps you can explain to me how that war achieved its stated aims – freedom of small nations, right to self determination, the war to end all wars?

      (You might find Robert Fisk’s “The Great War for Civilisation”and Lord Ponsonby’s “Falsehood in Wartime” a useful start in formulating your answer)

      “(is it only the UK getting more land that annoys you?)” – did you read anything of what I wrote? The UK entered the war on specific values and claims. The addition of 250,000 square miles proved at least one of those claims to be a lie. Where do you stand on that?

      I’m still wondering if you’d agree to having a statue of Tom Barry or Dan Breen erected in Whitehall or Westminster. Any answer on that, please? And perhaps you’d care to state your position on having 1916 celebrated in the UK officially, as well? You know, as part of shared inheritance, to bridge the divide, bring communities together etc.,

    • Nick Folley says:

      1) “I think the grip the roman catholic church had on the Irish Free State/Republic was far worse than in any other European country and certainly far worse than any grip the church of ireland had on Northern Ireland”

      2) “Sure the O[range] O[rder] is a bigoted group but I don’t think the south has a leg to stand on”

      You see, this is the difficulty. Even when you are presented with a point that makes a nonsense of your argument you return, fixated, to blaming 1916 and the Catholic church for everything that ‘went wrong’ (in your opinion) with Ireland since then. You have glossed over the fact that contrary to what you are claiming, the Protestant churches either directly (as in Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church) or indirectly (through the Orange Order) in the north had a grip on society there far more pernicious than that exercised by the Catholic church in the south. Instead of dealing the reality you simply dismiss it as almost an irrelevance and return to ‘what if’ speculation.

      I might add that in lambasting Irish people for ‘having a chip on their shoulder’ in blaming ‘perfidious Albion’ for all our ills, you apparently see no irony in your equally simplistic blaming of the Catholic church and 1916 for all our supposed ills.

      Underscoring this it is clear you subscribe to discredited social-Darwinist perspectives of the 19th century in regarding the Irish as incapable of self-government, Catholics as being responsible for all their own ills thanks to their religious outlook; with the opposite views on Anglo-Saxon Protestants. It is interesting as you do not often encounter such unabashed 19th century social Darwinists these days. I have to say though, that as a fellow-Irishman I do not share your low opinion of our fellow countrymen and women. Could I direct you to the short but excellent Liz Curtis’ “Nothing but the Same Old Story: the Roots of anti-Irish Racism” to help you obtain another perspective?

      Your argument seems to rest on ‘what if’ 1916 had never happened? It’s a reasonable question in itself, but one that can never actually be answered only speculated on. But it is not history. Moreover, if we are to engage in such an exercise we need to ask ‘why stop there’? Why not ask ‘what if’ the 1912 Unionist Rebellion had not happened? ‘What if’ Britain had been as good as its Great War recruiting promises and had conceded ideological defeat in the 1918 election? ‘What if’ Britain had not managed to block Ireland’s attempt to present its case at Versailles in 1919 and forced us instead down the military route? And so on.

      Another difficulty is that you seem to see 1916 in a vacuum, as if we were all happy members of the Empire prior to that until these ‘fanatics’ popped up out of nowhere to ruin everything. Actual history shows this not to have been the case. First of all, I suspect you are overlooking the influence of the Gaelic Revival. You are certainly overlooking the impact the 1912 Unionist Rebellion had on politics here. The gun in 20th century Ireland stems from that, not from 1916. You don’t appear to think this 1912 Rebellion had anything to do with hardening of attitudes, again, brushing it aside as almost an irrelevance although it was one of the seminal moments of 20th century Irish history. You seem to disregard the fact that what unionists were revolting against in 1912, and willing to shed blood over, was not 1916 (which came four years later) or total independence, but the very Home Rule you so easily assume they would have accepted somehow in 1918 thanks to rubbing shoulders with Catholics in the trenches. It may have escaped your attention, but unionists had their own regiments in World War One and rarely rubbed shoulders with Catholics. You don’t seem to see that what caused the 1912 Rebellion was the very fact that the Lords no longer had the veto – until then unionists had been content to allow the HR bill to be blocked by the Lords (which suggests they already had strong links with the upper house in Westminster). 1914 gave unionists some breathing space – it would be shelved until the war was over. By 1915 the British cabinet was dominated by unionist interests who were going to ensure the HR bill was never implemented, at least in the north. So 1916 neither ‘caused nor copperfastened’ partition, unionists had already decided it would be a reality prior to 1916.

      You state that 1916 caused a ‘hardening’ in attitudes. Whose attitudes? Unionist? They were already hardened by the Home Rule bill – which is what caused then Larne gun-running and 1912 Rebellion. Nationalist or separatist? If we had all been one big happy Home Rule family within the bosom of the Empire prior to 1916, how could there have been any ‘attitudes’ to harden? The 1916 rebels would have been shot, the Irish people would have got on with being Redmondites and that would have been that.

      This is one aspect of the 1916 Rising that no revisionist has successfully managed to explain.

      Why should the executions have caused such a big backlash? Common criminals were executed all the time in those days, and no one shed a tear for them. Indeed their executions were often a subject of public entertainment. And according to revisionists and Imperial apologists, nobody in Ireland wanted 1916, it was ‘a stab in the back’, Dubliners had their city destroyed (by the British admittedly, but this fact is usually glossed over unsurprisingly).

      The fact is that 1916 must have touched on some hidden nerve in the Irish psyche or it couldn’t have created such a reaction. We know that the Rising would have been a nationwide affair had it not been for O’Neill’s countermanding order. We may suspect people supported Home Rule simply because complete independence seemed off the table for discussion by the start of the 20th century but perhaps 1916 succeeded in Pearse’s stated aim of waking the Irish people to that possibility. It was not meant to be a military success in itself. In addition, Ireland’s experience of the Great War may have contributed to the ‘hardening of attitudes’ rather than the opposite, as you propose. You have still to adequately address any of the points I made in previous posts about lengthening casualty lists bringing the reality of the war home to thousands upon thousands of Irish families, the insult that was the threat of conscription, the realization by war’s end that we had been utterly lied to about the reasons we were being encouraged to throw ourselves on Britain’s pyre. It might interest you to know – since you posit 1918 as a date on which Home Rule might have been achieved if not for 1916 – that a week before the armistice the Irish pro-HR party in Westminster asked that the principle of self-determination be applied to Ireland, a motion heavily defeated. Why was conscription so vigorously opposed here if we were all such happy members of the Great Empire?

      You suggest I ‘am annoyed’ that Britain added 250,000 square miles to her Empire after the Great War. I’m not ‘annoyed’ by that, many countries throughout history have added land through conquest (though whether such behaviour is moral is a debate for another blog). I simply quoted it as one example of Britain’s rather obvious hypocrisy. I’m bemused to find that anyone in the 21st century still believes that World War One was fought for the reasons stated by Britain at the time, and that Britain was the ‘good guy’ in this and Germany ‘the bad guy’. May I direct you to Lord Ponsonby’s 1928 “Falsehood in Wartime” for an excellent account of the lies on which WW1 was based and a warning for our own times. Robert Fisk also deals with this topic in “The Great War for Civilization”. But that you apparently do believe these untruths, and seem unable to grasp that the Irish in the first quarter of the 20th century were able to see through them, is a testament to the effectiveness of 21st-century propaganda that surrounds Poppy(cock) Day.

      These historical facts must be taken into account especially if you are going to engage in any ‘what if’ exercise. What did Remond achieve with all his blood-letting? What did he achieve over the deaths of 30,000 Irishmen and the wounding of many more (not to mention all the German men who lost their lives as a result, leaving widows and families in their wake)? When was it that Redmond got Home Rule? When was Home Rule a success? Which one its stated aims did the Great War achieve? The principle of self determination? Freedom for the many countries whose freedom Britain had destroyed and colonised? A ‘war to end all wars’? What is it we (ye) are celebrating on Poppy Day if not glorifying Britain’s many wars of conquest? ‘

      I am still wondering if you would support having a statue to Tom Barry or Dan Breen in Whitehall, perhaps next to the Cenotaph?

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      What’s Darwinism got to do with anything? I don’t believe any theory that implies that any person is in any way inferior to another because of something within their DNA. We are all exactly the same except for the different life experiences we have which shape us into the people we are.

      I do however believe people should take responsibility for their own lives and actions; be they good or bad and I believe it is a proven economic fact that if you have more children than your income can provide for then you will slide into poverty and that is a very hard cycle to break. It’s no coincidence that as Irish families got smaller, due to people making the link between their income and the number of children they had, their ability to provide properly for their children increased and those children were able to avail of opportunities that they would previously never have been able to.

      My parents had to plan the number of children they had because they wanted their children to have certain opportunities. So why is it other sectors of society shouldn’t also take responsibility for the circumstances they find themselves in. Is it really so wrong to expect someone in this day and age to know how to use contraception and to understand they shouldn’t have children until they are financially and emotionally capable of being proper parents? I don’t think it’s got anything to do with Darwin but more to do with good sense and using their brain. I appreciate there are various cultures where men refuse to give women control over their own bodies but it doesn’t mean we should condone those cultures or be afraid to call them for what they are – not every culture or tradition is worth keeping.

      The 26 counties didn’t become a Republic until 1948 and even then it was done on a whim and didn’t mean anything, if there hadn’t been any 1916 the 32 counties could have been declared a Republic in 1948 and people in the North could have been as poor and repressed as people in the South except instead of unionist oppression the Northern nationalists would be whinging about being oppressed by the South who didn’t understand the North.

      Re WW1: you do know the UK didn’t start the war? So I can’t see how you would conclude that Britain had some aims before the war? There is no evidence that Britain was ‘gagging for war’ or for that matter that the German people were or the Austrians or anyone else and I would imagine if you were able to fast forward to Nov 1918 for a few seconds in July 1914 there’d have never been any war!

      Also this issue about freedom of small nations and self determination only began toward the end of the war when the scale of horror and damage became clear and the blame game was ramping up.

      The UK was a party to the Treaty of London in 1838 where it had no choice but to go to war if the neutrality of Belgium was breached – no doubt if they ignored that Treaty you would blame them for that too? There were a whole series of events over the few days when war broke out and I don’t think it’s credible to blame either side for deliberately starting a war. If you want to blame one person why not blame Gavrilo Princip.

      Why would Tom Barry or Dan Breen have a statue at the Cenotaph given they did nothing to help Britain win the war or to honour the Irish dead – on what basis should they be honoured?

      Well it seems we’ll have to agree to disagree on the numerous points you make as my stance is that we need to start taking responsibility for our own lives and stop always blaming someone else whereas you seem to be of the school where it’s always someone else’s fault; the most recent incarnation is that it’s the big IMF/EU/ECB who are to blame for the mess our economy is in. It’s the same mindset that blamed everything wrong in Ireland on the English – it was never our fault – the most oppressed people ever, the worst famine ever, the worst slums ever, the poorest poor ever blah blah blah.

      If you were to ask a man (be they unionist or nationalist in 1914 would they fight for their belief against a fellow Irish person the answer would probably be yes, if you asked those same men in Nov 1918 would they still fight, chances are if they survived the war the answer would be no and I might point out that the fighting we undertook in the civil war was not nationalist against unionist, it was nationalist against nationalist.

      I understand perfectly well all the details of Irish history (BA(Hons) Masters etc etc) but I’m trying to understand what exactly is it that we will be celebrating in 2016 as none of its aims have been achieved. In fact I believe it did even more damage because the fact remains there was no partition in 1916 even if the unionists were trying to wreck HR the fact is they didn’t because the nationalists who claimed to want full independence made achieving that impossible. There will never a united island of Ireland as one country and that is a legacy of 1916.

      So why would we be celbrating the anniversary of the event that caused the complete failure of the entire point of all the struggles of the 700 years before it?

      In 1914 the Orange Order, the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t have the death grip on society that they later did and I would also include the private schools and the various professions in that death grip too. We chose to allow the Catholic church take control of the country – they didn’t have to impose their control – which makes you wonder how quickly we would have a fascist government if one were available. Nowhere else was legislation approved by bishops before it went to cabinet or parliament and no where else would a politican state they were a catholic first and an Irishman second.

      Why is it the catholic church could be dominant in many countries’ societies but the level of control in those countries didn’t even come close to the level of control it had in Ireland, not even the Italians allowed such church control. What was so different about us?

      I am dealing with the facts of what we know took place as a direct result of 1916 and if those consequences were good or could they have been better and could the bad consequences have been avoided.

      Perhaps if unionists had got some arms in 1912 they wouldn’t have attacked nationalists, oh hang on a second…
      Perhaps if there had been no 1916 the UK would have allowed Ireland make its case at Versailles…

      I think also you’ll find common criminals were not executed ‘all the time’ in 1914 and when it did happen they were certainly not public events – perhaps you meant executions in 1814. Of course there was an emotive response to the executions of a group of eejets – they were young and stupid and self obsessed so why wouldn’t more mature people feel sorry for them.

      Of course we were not one big happy family in the Empire prior to 1916 but nor were we ever one big happy nation before the English arrived on our shores, nor is there any reason why the entire island of Ireland should be one single country. Not even Brian Boru or any of the FitzGerald’s ever managed to unite the entire country to accept them as their leader so why are we meant to believe Padraig Pearse should succeed where they failed when it was patently clear he didn’t speak for a large minority, what right did he have to just ignore their wishes?

      You quote all these people to support your anti British views and dismiss any suggestion from me that we might just have only ourselves to blame for the mess we created here after 1916.

      Why do you say Poppy(cock) Day – how disappoiniting that you would dismiss the death of so many people in the trenches or elsewhere in WW1 or 2. If you ever get the chance to visit the trenches you should and afterwards it is a remarkable privilege to be able to place a poppy on someone’s grave – a strangers grave where perhaps no one has ever stopped to think of him and wonder of the life he could have had. I have placed poppy’s on the graves of British, French (and German) graves to honour those people. Not to judge them and I wear a poppy with pride every November and I place a marker at Westminster for my fathers 20 year old brother who died in 1945 – a young guy who could have had a nice quiet life on a prosperous estate in a beautiful place on the Limerick-Tipperary border where his family have lived for generations but instead he choose to do something noble and he paid the ultimate price. Do you think his parents disowned him because he fought in the British Navy – no they mourned his death for the rest of their lives and respected his memory. Then again they weren’t in favour of 1916 or 1922 or the economic war – I probably get my West Brit tendancies from them! The point they and many like them saw the claims of those involved in 1916 for the sham it was and saw the charade of what followed in our ‘Republic’ as not being a price worth paying.

      All those people who died in war achieved the freedoms we take for granted today. I hope you don’t think a German win in WW1 would have been a better outcome once an actual war had started.

      But back to 2016 and what we will be celebrating.

      1916 led to the founding of Sinn Fein, it led to the SF split, it led to the defeat of the Irish PP, it led to a declaration of a ‘Republic’, it led to a war of independence, it led to a civil war, it led to partition, it led to an economic war, it led to decades of stagnation, it led to widespread crony-ism and corruption, it led to massive emigration and the ruination of the life chances of generations of people, it led to the IRA, which led to the various loyalist groups in response to the IRA, it also led to the PIRA, CIRA, OIRA and it led to more Catholics being killed by those IRA groups than were killed by loyalists responding to IRA killings and attacks.

      I believe all of that could have been avoided where it not for 1916.

      But even worse than that it failed to provide a better country for Irish people to live in – the lives of Irish people after ‘independence’ were worse than before – Ireland was the only country in western Europe were standards of living fell after WW2 and it didn’t even have the excuse of communism that other eastern European countries had. Having control over our own destiny did not see an improvement in the life of ordinary people.

      These are all facts that cannot be ignored. It is quite clear we were unfit to govern ourselves in 1916 or 1922 and it might be argued even in 2011. This is not because we are Irish or inferior but because we are too immature to have such responsibility and when we got it, we did not use it well.

      Or is it the fault of Britain that Ireland was such a grim place to live in for so long.

      I want to understand how Ireland came to the sorry pass it is at now and like anything, that requires facing some hard truths about our past. I understand the human instinct to retreat into denial is stronger than any other emotion (including love or hate) and that admitting 1916 was a failure is hard because doing so means we have to accept it was our fault, or rather our grandparents’ fault and that we failed after them too and no one finds it easy to admit they are wrong especially given blaming others has been a safty value for centuries and admitting we are wrong means we hve to put it right: far bette to blame the English, the IMF/EU/ECB etc.

      If even one of the aims of 1916 were fulfilled then there may be a case for it and for some weird glorious defeat but that’s not the case. We don’t speak our national language, we inflicted the most horrific scale of abuse on minorities and we allowed rampant corruption and cronyism to rot civil society to the core but even worse than that, having won some independence we than immediately handed it over to the Catholic Church – is that what Pearse and Connolly would have done?

      And in case you didn’t notice, I still don’t think Dan Breen or Tom Barry would be worthy of a statue at the cenotaph or anywhere else to be honest. I don’t think they are fit to polish the shoes of the war dead.

    • jaygee says:

      Desmond Fitzgerald you have articulated what thousands of ordinary decent people who fled Ireland,to escape a repressive theocratic State, would have said, given the chance.

    • Kynos says:

      It would strike me that the very fact of British soldiers being able to massacre unarmed civilians on the streets of a civilised city within the very heart of the Empire without any fear of sanction (as the King’s Own Scottish Murderers sorry Borderers did in Bachelor’s Walk in 1914) justified the subsequent rebellion in 1916. No need to mention the thousands of men starved by autocratic employers in the LockOut, or the threat of imminent rebellion and pogroms raised by the Loyalist smuggling (again, unimpeded by the ”legitimate” authorities) of millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of rifles pistols (and machine guns?) into Ireland; no need to mention the trade distorting measures taken against Irish goods and services by the British government; no need to mention the enormous waste of human life and limb caused by Empires and their wars of cowardice inhumanity and rapine.

      I would see the Rising thus justified by pre-existing atrocities visited with regularity upon defenceless civilians in the same way as I would see the New York and London bombings of 9/11 and 7/7 are justified. By the basic human right of self-defence and the basic human right to throw off oppressive government foreign or domestic by any means possible, fair or foul. Not nice, not pretty, not ”fair play old boy” but war never is.

    • Kynos says:

      “Why would Tom Barry or Dan Breen have a statue at the Cenotaph given they did nothing to help Britain win the war” – you are in error. Tom Barry joined the British Army – not to secure Home Rule nor liberate small nations or any of that but as he said himself to see what war was like to get to fire a gun and to feel like a grown man. He fought in Mesopotamia and we might assume he fought well as he rose to Sergeant’s rank and was in fact offered an officer’s commission so good was he at the business of war. He took those skills and learnings and used them to good effect against his former comrades and sworn allegiances during the War of Independence.

      So for his service in WW1, why wouldn’t Barry have his name at least recorded along with all those others who likewise gave service to the British Empire? Only he wasn’t fool enough/unlucky enough to die for that Old Lie he doubtless would have had his name, if not a statue, inscribed on some suitable plinth or cenotaph.

    • Nick Folley says:

      Wow, you’ve covered a lot of ground here and I’m not sure how much – with limited time and other duties to attend – I’ll be able to respond to, but I’ll do my best!

      You wrote –

      “What’s Darwinism got to do with anything?”

      The term I used was SOCIAL Darwinism, a very different thing from Darwinism as such.

      But I’m starting to wonder if you even read my posts through before rushing to fire off a reponse on your keyboard. In No.50 I wrote that my grandfather’s sister sent him a letter in the trenches – that would be my grand-aunt. In your reply in No.53 you have transformed her into my grandmother – a small, but telling difference.

      But anyway, Social Darwinism was an attempt by some thinkers in the 19th century to apply Darwin’s ideas about natural selection and survival of the fittest to human and societal relations. Darwin found his ideas eagerly sezied upon by those who belived they had found ‘scientific’ proof for what they’d suspected all along, that the WASP (unsurprisingly most of these theorists were English or American) was top of the evolutionary pile and other nationalities – Irish, African etc., were inferior and were to be controlled or eliminated. Not to do so would even be a dereliction of duty as it would dilute and diminish the gene pool. Hitler later used these theoretical frameworks for his own…. ‘policies’ regarding subject peoples.

      That is why I am wary of anyone talking about ‘the Irish not being capable of self-government’ etc., It is influenced by, and an echo of, Social Darwinist ideas.

      But let’s examine this idea for a moment. It implies two things –

      1) that there is something deficient about the Irish as a race (Social Darwinism)
      2) That there exists elsewhere, races or nations that do display the ability to ‘rule themselves’ – or else the distinction would have no meaning.

      I think we can discount the first – Social Darwinism has been discredited – it would be the equivalent of saying “women are not capable of ruling themselves, which is why they need men to manage them” (some Social Darwinists even made this connection by extrapolating from their ideas on society. They divided countries into ‘male’ countries like England and Germany and ‘female’ countries like ‘Ireland’ and ‘Spain’ that tied in neatly with the sexism of the time)

      Turning to the second, the first problem you’re going to run into here is how to define what ‘ruling yourself’ means. Since you haven’t made any attempt to do this, you proposition is not capable of being adequately assessed for its veracity.

      However you do imply that Ireland is some kind of failed state. In your most recent post No.56 you ask – and I’m not sure if it is a rhetorical question or a wailing lament that demands the accusation to be made untrue –

      “I want to understand how Ireland came to the sorry pass it is at now…far bette to blame the English, the IMF/EU/ECB etc.”

      In short, you want to directly blame 1916 for the collapse of the housing market and our bust after the boom. It is difficult to know where to start with such an idea. You might as well blame it on Noah’s Flood while you’re at it.

      To do so would be to ignore the effects of economic neo-liberalism, the Lehmann Brothers, European politics, global interactions, the list is endless. To try and pin our economic woes on 1916 is reductionist in the extreme and deeply flawed. Ironically, never was our nation acting more like a Home Rule nation than in the last ten to fifteen years – closer ties to the UK and the north, more cross-border co-operation, Queen Elizabeth’s visit – right to the very Rebel County and all! – cessation of paramilitary activity, all the pundits arguing the Redmondite position in our daily press, etc., etc., If I was a simple statistician, I might even be tempted to correlate our neo-Redmondism WITH the economic crash, and suggest had we followed our own course we might not be in this position today. I might also point to the fact that even in the darkest days of the 1950s we didn’t have to bring in the IMF.

      But to do so would be to fall into the same reductionist trap, and I won’t be tempted.

      If I were to blame our economic woes on England and colonisation, I would have to explain also why the United States are in trillions of dollars of debt and are suffering one of the worst economic crises in the century, and why the most of the rest of the world is in the same situation. Of course the United states were once an English colony too, but I’m sure they lay the blame at the door of a wildy unregulated financial sector, the Lehmann brothers etc., And in relation to Ireland, so do I! You see, I do not blame our woes on the English!

      So, you believe Ireland is a failed state and that some people prefer to blame England and our colonial past for this, rather than ourselves. I wonder who these ‘people’ are – I don’t know any of them, and I certainly am not one of them. You will recall (if you read my post fully!) that back in No.54 I stated –

      “…not to mention your comments on Catholic northern families being the architect of their own problems – sure, everyone is, to some extent…”

      In other words, I was stating that I believe everyone – whether on an individual level or national level – has some responsibility for their own problems. In Ireland’s case, one example might be how the population repeatedly voted for Fianna Fail (I was NOT one of those people, by the way) which resulted in the same party losing the run of themselves and to some extent, the country.

      But I went on to add, in relation to the same comment –

      “…but you leave a gaping hole where northern society and politics are concerned…”

      In other words, while blaming Catholics for their own problems by having too many children you completely ignored the impact of deliberate policy of unionist Northern Ireland to exclude Catholics culturally and economically. Now I don’t know what university you went to, but if I tried to hand up a thesis like that in Sociology – and the History Department is no different – I would be sent packing in short shrift!

      The same problem exists with your model in dealing with Ireland today – just as its woes do not stem from “perfidious Albion”, neither do they stem from some innate defect in the Irish race (the Social Darwinist approach). They are part of a much larger, complex global economy and culture and cannot be boiled down to either England or 1916 or ‘Irish deficiency’.

      So let’s move on –

      I disagree with your analysis that Ireland is a ‘failed state’ – like many other countries it is going through a rough patch due to many factors – both within and without its control. It isn’t the first and won’t be the last. There is nothing innately wrong with us as a nation or a race more than can be found in any country or race.

      But your model presupposes that there exists somewhere, a nation or race that is capable of ‘ruling themselves’. Apart from the taxonomic difficulties in deciding what constitutes ‘ruling themselves’ mentioned previously, it would not be an easy task to decide what kind of country might serve as an example. We could start with Nazi Germany – it was certainly a model of a nation of people deciding what is was they wanted their country to be and pursuing it with vigour and success. But the final outcome was hubris and collapse. We would also only be focusing on aspects such as industrial productivity, low unemplyment rate (somewhere near 0% in Nazi Germany, I believe) militartization, strong leadership. To decide if the people ‘ruled themselves’ we might have to add other factors such as asking if they were happy? Did they have a good quality of life? Did they feel free? Or perhaps we would need to add further factors as yet undecided.

      What then, about England? Should we look at the leadership of the Royal family, England’s fairly strong economy? On closer inspection we find a Royal family shaken by scandals over the years, an economy heavily based on risky financial products rather than old staples like engineering and manufacture that once was Britain’s pride and joy, cracks appearing even in the Union, with Scotland muttering about wanting ‘out’, the gross and almost wilful mismanagement of northen Ireland, even the recent riots that broke out – and not the first time, for anyone who remembers the race riots of the 1980s, the decay in many of Britain’s inner-city estates – all on a far more serious scale than similar problems in Ireland. England is more like a creaking ship these days, than a proudly sailing galleon. You see, any country can go through rough times.

      What about the United States? Surely that is an example of a country where people can ‘rule themselves’? Again, it depends on what you mean. Even the Simpsons cartoon felt entitled to lampoon the average American’s complete disconnect with the political system and lack of awareness of what they are really voting for. We would have to ask why the unarguably richest country in the world also has one of the lowest standards of education and is unable to provide free, adequate health care for the poorest of its population. Why most of its wealth is concentrated in the top 1% of its population. We would have to investigate the charge that America is not a democracry run by the people, but an oligarchy run by powerful individuals, corporations and cartels.

      Now, back to Ireland. I can’t hope to give any kind of detailed analysis of Irish history over the 20th century here, and you say you are already familiar with the details, so I will only skim through them. But all told, I don’t think Ireland did as badly as many people seem to suggest. At one time the “Angela’s Ashes” perspective was all the rage, I would argue the picture is more nuanced than that.

      First of all it had to rebuild itself from the effects of two wars – the War of Independence as well as the Civil War. We have already spoken about the Civil War and to re-iterate, to blame it on a single man, DeValera, is reductionist in the extreme, there were many factors. Both wars resulted in a badly damaged infrastructure – not an auspicious start to any nation-building. But before you rush off to say all this was done by the IRA during the Civil War (it was not) don’t forget that the Black & Tans – acting under orders from Britain ultimately, had a deliberate policy of targetting the local economy by burning creameries etc., the effect of which was much greater than you might suppose, given that the population and economy was predominantly agricultural.

      I was in Bosnia in 2007 and it struck me how the signs of war linger on there, 10 years from when the war ended, everywhere you still see damaged buildings, blown bridges etc., and people are still trying to build around this. I imagine the situation was similar in 1920s Ireland.

      Yet within a few years the Irish Givernment was busy trying to build up the economy – the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric project (for which German engineering experts were brought in, showing Ireland’s outward-looking view), setting up state bodies such as Bord na Mona and Coillte to develop and exploit our natural resources etc.,

      It was their bad luck that within 10 years came the Great Depression which affected everyone, including Ireland. Some of our 1930s poverty must also be seen in this light. Some commentators have pointed to DeValera’s isolationism / self-sufficiency in the 1930s and the economic wars. These might not have been the best of ideas during a depression, but they did result in some reparations by Britain, a final end to payments for the Land Acts of the 19th century and the return of the Treaty Ports in 1938, without which we would have been involved in WW2 in a much deeper way than we were.

      Then WW2 came along and DeValera’s ideas about self-sufficiency became a necessity rather than a simply an ideology. Perhaps it was just as well we were used to getting by on our own resources as the War interrupted international trade and there were many things we had to do without if we couldn’t produce them ourselves. Turf was cut and brought to be stacked in Phoenix Park to be used instead of the coal we’d have been importing otherwise. We already had the mechanisms to do this, thanks the Bord na Mona etc.,

      Even in the Depressed 1930s the government was able to set up a national airline – Aer Lingus – and develop Shannon as a transatlantic hub. We were the first country in the world to introduce the concept of ‘duty free shopping’ one of many examples of how Irish people have shown their innovation and been widely copied around the world.

      Post World War Two there was again a dip in the world economy before it began to recover. Ireland benefited from Marshall Aid, but not to the extent that countries like England, France and Germany did. The nature of our aid also differed in terms of the loan-to-grant ratio, that is how much of it was given as a loan, and how much as a grant. England, France and Germany all fared far better in this regard than Ireland.

      For example, we recived $128 million in loans, and $18 million in grants, whereas Britain received loans-to-grants in the proportion 15% to 85%, similar to France, and obviously better terms than Ireland. The two highest recipients of Aid were Britain (with $3, 297 million) and France ( $2,296 million) and Germany coming in third on $1,448 million. We were still paying back Marshall Aid in 1969 when it represented over 2/3 of our foreign debt. All these figures need to be factored in in any argument about Ireland’s standard of living remaining below the European average.

      In the 1960s under Lemass Ireland opened up to direct-foreign-investment, a double edged sword since it brought jobs but also the threat in more recent times of having an economy overly-dependent on foreign firms (compared to Italy, by way of example, where the majority of businesses are local family-run firms) and the possibility of relocation to cheaper labour pools. But it also brought some relief from the emigration of the 1950s.

      On a political level, we have made our presence felt in the UN, some would say well above our size as a nation, our soldiers have served in many UN peace-keeping missions, and are generally very highly regarded wherever they go (and I have heard that also directly from the mouth of a Lebanese who remembers them well), we have managed not to get embroiled in any major wars, or invade anyone (even if we could!) since independence, though the last and current government seem keen to squander that noble legacy, which will be a great loss to us.

      We also have one of the highest standards of general education and literacy anywhere in the world (compare that to America, as mentioned previously, the richest country in the world) and until recently, a fairly good health care model. We also have had one of the most stable democracies anywhere in the world this century – Germany, Spain and Italy have all experienced fascsim, Italy has had almost 60 changes of government since World War Two alone, yet despite all the polarisation of society one might expect after a Civil War, we have managed to maintain a fairly secure and healthy democracy here. One might argue we have a two-party system, but less so than the USA, and in the last election it was clear that old hereditary voting patterns had finally vanished, though we didn’t quite go as far as voting in all Independents or a Sinn Fein government.

      Those who lambast our government, or Fianna Fail for being corrupt, would find it educational in the extreme to live in Italy for a while to witness the unabashed corruption in that country (though it is making efforts to change this). I recall the Italian politician who, on being arrested by the police on corruption charges, was found to have actual gold bars hidden around the house. Even the Italians – long used to corruption – couldn’t resist raising an eyebrow at this. But don’t be fooled into thinking Germany or France are squeaky clean in this regard, and who can forget the recent scandals involving serving British cabinet Minsters who claimed lawn mowing and hairdressing as ‘parliamentary expenses’!! Of course it is assumed that corruption and bribery are also rife in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. No, I don’t think Ireland has anything to be especially ashamed of in this regard. More tellingly, ranked by Transparency International in terms of corruption perception, we come in at No. 14, ahead of Germany (15, with Austria) and the United Kingdom (20) and the United States (22) but obviously not as squeaky clean as the Danes (no.1)

      All in all, I think we have proved to be a fairly resilient, resourceful and solid country, well able to handle itself on an international stage, we have a lot to be proud of as well as having made mistakes along the way. So I don’t buy for a moment the argument – if you can even call it that – that we are somehow ‘unfit to rule ourselves’

      There’s a lot more I don’t have room to fit here, and I still have to deal with your other points, which I will come back to later.

      But I hope that at this stage, you realize it is a much more complex picture, that to blame our present difficulties purely on some racial or national defect within ourselves or on 1916 is 1) social Darwinsm 2) reductionist & limited in analysis 3) ill-defined in its terms 4) ironically, the very same kind of simplistic approach you accuse other people of (whoever they are) in blaming all our ills on England.

    • Nick Folley says:

      As an aside, I think we do have a tendency, as a nation, to assume that both our achievements and our problems, are bigger in the general scheme of things, than they are. The level of shock that is expressed in the pages of our daily papers at the series of ‘scandals’ that seem to be emerging these days is actually a sign of hope for me, rather than despair. It demonstrates that as a nation, we have not lost our humanity and still have the capacity to be shocked at these things. There are countries in the world where such events would barely elicit a yawn and a ‘what did you expect?’ reponse.

    • Nick Folley says:

      Desmond, further to your previous posts.

      No.56 – “We chose to allow the Catholic church take control of the country – they didn’t have to impose their control – which makes you wonder how quickly we would have a fascist government if one were available”

      I’m surprised you even ask the latter question: as an Irish history graduate you must be aware that a small minority in Ireland did indeed flirt with fascism. They were known as the Blueshirts – of the Fine Gael tradition (and from where Fine Gael gets its nickname, though it’s an association they tend to play down these days). They represented what might be considered as the rump of Redmondism in 1930s Ireland. They were available to run the country, under Eoin O’Duffy, had anyone wanted to vote them in or even support them en masse.

      But apparently we Irish have a low opinion of or interest in having fascist leaders and so, unappreciated in their own country, the majority went off to fight for Franco in Spain. I hope that answers the latter part of your question.

      As to the first part –

      “We chose to allow the Catholic church take control of the country – they didn’t have to impose their control”

      In other words, we chose what form of social control we wanted ourselves. That seems like a reasonable expression of democratic choice!

      It might not be the one you agree with, but if it is the majority choice, who are you to say it mustn’t obtain in the country? That’s the weakness of democracy, as well as its strength – it doesn’t always produce the results we personally like, yet are obliged to live with.

      However, once again you leave your terms undefined. For example, how do you define ‘take control of’ something? How was this expressed historically? Was there evidence of any form of dissent or subterfuge back against this control? Michel Foucault, in his seminal study of power relationships, came to the conclusion that the exercise of power is never as simple as a straightforward ‘A has power over B, so B must do what A says’ classic type of dialectic. He discovered that even in situations where power seems to be exercised by a particular group (he conducted his research in institutions and prisons) those who are supposedly dominated develop numerous ways to shape the game, within their limitations, as well.

      But I can’t say more than this at present as no such precise study exists to my knowledge, on Church – State, or even Church – citizen, power relations in 20th century Ireland.

      But if Ireland turned out to have a predominantly Catholic tone through the 20th century it should not surprise us, as the majority religion here (after the Protestant unionists scuttled Home Rule) was Catholic. The people at parish pump level as well as leadership level largely came from this background and it is no surprise they shaped their environment accordingly. By way of parallel, would you expect any province of India where the majority of the population is Hindu to somehow produce a culture that was expressly Catholic? Or the majority Protestant north was going to produce a flowering of Islamic art and Sharia law?

      There were two political barriers to potentially block the Catholic church from having any special dominance here -

      The first was enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation, which was ratified by the first Dail in January 1919 (it was one of the first acts of that Dail) –

      “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past”

      The sentence about ‘cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’ is often misquoted and misunderstood to mean actual children, whereas it was in fact, a reference to the different religious or ethnic denominations – i.e Protestant or Catholic, Gaelic or British in sentiment.

      The last sentence the 1916 Proclamation was specifically making mention of the fact that the different Christian denominations had been pitted against each other historically by the British Establishment and that this would not be a feature of the new Republic.

      Secondly, Article 2, parts 1,2 and 3 of the 1937 Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, not to endow any specific religion or discriminate on religious grounds. A very different affair from “A Protestant state for a Protestant people’ across the border!

      Article 1 simply makes reference to homage to God, but allows the individual to decide how that will be done – whether as Protestant, Catholic, Methodist, Islamist etc.,

      Despite these articles and Proclamations, I would agree with you that the Catholic Church did play a very large and influential role in public life here throughout the 20th century, though I would certainly not go as far as to say it ‘took control’ or anything like it.

      There were also many Protestants who served both in the IRA, Dail and Seanad as well as State Bodies at different times. But the question remains, if there were political barriers to any denomination obtaining undue influence in public life, then how did this happen?

      I should start off by saying I am no expert in this field and there are plenty more better qualified than I to address your question. But I can offer some of my own thoughts and observations.

      The first obvious point is that the Free State we got in 1922 under threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ from Britain was not the kind of State that had been envisaged by the 1916 Rebels nor the revolutionaries of the 1919 to 1921 period.

      Despite attempts by some commentators to portray the war of Independence as some kind of sectarian war against Protestants (who presumably just sat there and didn’t fight back) the evidence for this simply doesn’t stack up. It seems the war was fought with two aims and on two levels, depending on the political education of the individual combatants – one, simply to get the British occupation to end and British forces and administration out of the country and two, with an ideal of the egalitarian state that would be created in its wake.

      The winning side of the Civil War was left with a dilemma – how to unite the people under the new project when there was such obvious political dissent. Military defeat hadn’t meant the ‘die hards’ simply accepted the new state of affairs either politically or ideologically. Many thousands were driven out through the making of Ireland into a ‘cold house’ for republicans, emigrating to America and elsewhere. The rest stayed and went on to revive their fortunes politically.

      The one uniting factor in such political discord was obviously religion. If the people wouldn’t support the new state on ideological grounds, they might be persuaded to do so on religious grounds. My suspicion is that the new Free State gave a degree of prominence to the Catholic church – against the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation – precisely because by having the Church on-side in a symbiosis, it was harder for the people to be off-side.

      I am aware that I may be stretching the thesis too far, too soon, here; and I lack much evidence to back this up. However you may have read Joseph McVeigh’s “Wounded Church” where he argues that Catholic church in Ireland tended to be on the side of whatever authorities are in power at any given time. Following persecution in penal times, the price of freedom was ideological support for the British occupation, from around the founding of Maynooth onwards. Previously Irish priests had to train abroad in France or Spain, perhaps returning home with seditious ideas. Having the training centre in Maynooth – under British eyes, reduced that danger. Of course there are Bibilical reasons for recognizing lawful civil authority as well, but McVeigh is making is that this acceptance of civil authority stemmed from a symbiotic state – church relationship.

      It may be that following independence the Catholic church found it expedient to support the government formed of men one of its bishops (Bishop Coughlan) had previously excommunicated as ‘men of violence’. The Free State found it expedient to have the Church on board to help heal the divisions of the Civil War. That relationship continued up to recent times until the State felt secure enough in itself to jettison its erstwhile partner.

      It is often overlooked that the first challenge to the Catholic Church’s authority in public life came from the IRA. After Bishop Coughlan issued his edict excommunicating the IRA, they simply disregarded it; though as Tom Barry notes in his memoirs, it caused many of his men -who were mostly devout Catholics – a good deal of soul searching. It is important to note that they did not reject the Church or their Catholic religion, but they refused to accept what they saw as the Catholic Church’s political interference on behalf of the Occupier. It is a significant event as it demonstrates that contrary to popular belief, ordinary people were able to make informed decisions about religious matters.

      That is one possibility but I suspect it is overly-reductionist and the prominence of the Catholic Church in Irish public life is a more complex affair.

      For example, we have to take into account the religious beliefs of the voting public and politicians as well. For example, a politician who is serious about his / her Catholic beliefs would not be likely to vote for in support of a bill legalizing abortion, nor would a devout Catholic electorate be likely to support or vote for a candidate that supported legalizing abortion. Politicians would also be aware of the issues that mattered to their electorate and been mindful of votes. Sincere politicians would also try and deliver on what their electorate expected of them, which could include blocking legislation to permit – for example – abortion. The electorate in turn, if serious about their religion, would seek spiritual guidance – if they did not already possess it – on how to vote when it came to issues that came under moral remit in particular. That doesn’t mean they simply voted the way the church told them to, but they might ask “what does the Catholic church have to say about this?” and incorporate that information into their final decision in voting.

      While you might not agree with people involving their religion in voting – especially on moral issues – or in seeking the advice of their Church on such matters – you have to accept that this is a normal part of a functioning democracy.

      The problem these days especially seems to be that while many priests and clergy served their parishes tirelessly and faithfully, there were many others who did not; and moreover part of the Church hierarchy – ‘guardian of our morality’ – transpired to have abused our trust very badly and is now paying a heavy price for it.

      As society become more secular the Church has receded from its previous importance in public life. Few politicians’ religion – if any – seems to have much impact on how they vote on moral issues these days. Fewer people seem to refer to religion for answers on how to deal with the moral aspects of public life. There are many religious people – not only clergy, but also lay people – who may mourn this and see it as a wrong turn for our society, but nonetheless, once again that is democracy, whether one likes it or not. It remains to be seen if a secular state where religion informs little or no part of the public sphere will produce better fruit than past times. But those interested in a secular non-denominational State will find much they can agree with in the egalitarian 1916 Proclamation, and perhaps 2016 will be a timely reminder of that.

    • Nick Folley says:

      @ No.56 “1916 led to the founding of Sinn Fein”

      Desmond, of all the things that 1916 might have led to, the founding of Sinn Fein was not one of them. Sinn Fein was founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith.

    • Nick Folley says:

      Desmond, the next question I’d like to turn my attention to is that of Poppy Day. You wrote in No. 56 -

      ““Why do you say Poppy(cock) Day – how disappoiniting that you would dismiss the death of so many people in the trenches or elsewhere in WW1 or 2”

      This question definitely deserves an answer, both to help you understand what my issue is with Poppy Day and how it relates overall to 1916 and the War of Independence.

      So first, let’s be clear about this. I do not ‘dismiss’ anyone’s death. As a Christian, I can only regard every untimely man-made death as a tragedy, both for the killer and the killed.

      I have a very high regard for anyone who puts their life on the line – and that can include ‘livelihood’ and ‘personal freedom’ as well as actual life – for a cause they sincerely believe in, even when I might not agree with the cause itself or think their actions misguided (and I’m thinking here in a general sense, without any examples in mind).

      You seem to assume I have an issue with Poppy Day because of some anti-British sentiment you ascribe to me –

      “…You quote all these people to support your anti British views…”

      So let’s be clear again – if by British you mean British people and British culture and British music – I am NOT anti-British.

      Apart from my interest in many aspects of British culture, as you can guess from my family name, I am half British myself. I can trace my British ancestors back to the very start of the 19th century to outside London. Are you suggesting I eschew myself?

      In relation to Poppy Day my family also have a long tradition of service in the British army – my great grandfather joined in the 1860s and saw service in India, Afghanistan, Egypt and elsewhere before arriving in Ireland (which is why I’m here). As I already mentioned my grandfather signed up in 1914 and by 1915 was on the front line, until demobilization in 1919.

      Nothing of my British background precludes me from having a critical view of Britain or the British establishment, on the contrary I could argue I have an even greater vested interest in critiquing the nature of that state and I am not alone in this. There are many British citizens critical of their government’s policies or the Royal family. John Lennon – as British as you can get – handed back his MBE in protest at Britain’s (by which we mean the British powers-that-be) support of the US in Vietnam.

      My issue with Poppy Day, and the reason I think it ought to be renamed Poppycock day, are of a different nature.

      Even though you wrote –
      “how disappoiniting that you would dismiss the death of so many people in the trenches or elsewhere in WW1 or 2”

      you must know that Poppy Day is not reserved for servicemen who fell in WW1 or WW2 alone? Poppy Day is a blanket commemoration of the deaths of ALL British & Commonwealth servicemen who died in every military engagement or operation since WW1. There are no exceptions.

      This means, that during Poppy Day there is a minute’s silence and ceremonies to commemorate the Black & Tans as well as those who died in both World Wars. We commemorate the British campaign against the Mau Maus – and I think you should read up on that before deciding whether it is something you would prefer to commemorate or forget. These are just two examples.

      So No.1, Poppy Day is not – despite efforts to make it appear so – solely about defeating Hitler or ‘defending the right to self-determination’ during WW1. It is about all British and Commonwealth militarism since WW1 and you either buy into the whole package, or none of it.

      The second problem with it that I have a very different concept of what honouring the fallen dead would be. Interestingly, Poppy Day is about servicemen who died, but doesn’t seem to honour the badly wounded and mutilated at all. While you will see some servicemen with medals on their chest on Poppy Day, you won’t see any amputees, or those horribly disfigured or maimed by their wartime experience. Wasn’t it enough for their lives to be ruined so or did they have to die neatly as well in order to be honoured?

      The Establishment prefers that the public do not dwell on this aspect of war, since seeing such awful effects might stem the flow of recruits. Dying for your country can seem very heroic, with everyone remembering you. Carrying your mutilations through the rest of your life while trying to survive on a lowly army pension and not getting too many marriage offers seems a lot less attractive. Yet for every soldier that dies, a dozen more or so are injured in some way. I am also reminded of the disgraceful way that for all the talk of honouring servicemen, the Gurkhas recently had to fight the Ministry Of Defence over their pension rights. You’d think if the sacrifice meant all that much to the Establishment, they’d at least not quibble over a few pounds.

      Therefore you would expect that if anyone is to be asked to make such a huge sacrifice and live with the physical or emotional scars of war or come home in a body bag, it should only be done for the very best and gravest of reasons. Sadly, this is not the case.

      As I mentioned before, WW1 was fought on a tissue of lies. I accept your point that we can’t pin the blame on any one country – I certainly don’t blame Britain as you suppose. The war came about because the leaders of various European countries got themselves tangled in a very complex web of treaties and promises aptly depicted in the opening ‘chess’ scene in the film “Oh, What a Lovely War!”

      However, those who got themselves killed or mutilated during that war were led to do so (at least on the British side, I am less familiar with Germand and French recruiting propaganda but no doubt it was similar) on the basis of a number of slogans which proved to be knowingly false. In short they were misled into their sacrifice, as one might say, they were ‘sold a pig in a poke’

      In post no.56 you wrote –

      “Also this issue about freedom of small nations and self determination only began toward the end of the war when the scale of horror and damage became clear and the blame game was ramping up”

      Your comment would therefore clearly imply that whatever the reasons so many died or were mutilated for, it was not for the reasons being stated at war’s end, and retrospective justification had to be found.

      However, one of the earliest mentions of a war to ‘defend small nations’ came from no less a person than Mr.Asquith, who used it on September 26th, 1914.

      In addition he was also at pains to state (September 1914) that “we have no desire to add to our Imperial burdens in either area or in responsibility” a view echoed by Bonar Law in December 1916 “We are not fighting for territory”

      Yet, as I mentioned, by war’s end Britain had added a huge amount of territory to her Empire. I was incorrect only in the figure I supplied – it wasn’t 250,000 square miles but 1,415, 929 square miles (Egypt, Cyprus, German s.w Africa, German E.Africa, Togoland and Cameroons, Samoa, Palestine, Mesopotamia, German New Guinea etc.,)

      “A War for democracy” – apart from obvious denial of Irish democratic rights, WW1 was followed by fascist dictatorship in Italy, veiled dictatorship in Poland, communist dictatorship in Soviet Russia to name a few. During the war one of Britain’s chief allies was the absolutist monarch Czar Nicholas. The war caused the suspension or reduction of civil liberties even amongst so-called democratic countries (Britain, USA, Holland etc.,). In addition, Britain was later on most friendly terms with Adolf Hitler as a bulwark against communism until his militarism and expansionism became apparent.

      ‘A war to end war’ – speaks for itself, apart from being the direct cause of an even more terrible war (World War Two) there have been over 100 wars since 1945 in which some 100 million people have died.

      On the invasion of Belgium you wrote in post No.56 –

      “The UK was a party to the Treaty of London in 1838 where it had no choice but to go to war if the neutrality of Belgium was breached – no doubt if they ignored that Treaty you would blame them for that too?”

      You may not be aware of this but in 1887 there was a scare that Germany was about to invade France and violate Belgian neutrality to do so. Though the attack never materialized the British cabinet had already decided that should this happen, they would not act against Germany as they were on better relations with Germany than France at the time. So, they were quite capable of dishonouring the Treaty when it suited them.

      By 1914 the situation was very different. Relations with France were far better and those with Germany had deteriorated. This was in large measure due to Germany’s rise in the world. Germany had been superseding Britain as the world’s leading industrial power for some time, and the Kasiser’s stated intentions of making Germany a world and naval power. The latter aspect greatly alarmed Britain, finding at last a serious rival to her naval dominance. There were formal treaties such as the Triple Entente in 1907 aimed to throw a ‘ring’ around Germany, as well But even back before 1906 secret talks had been underway between British and French armed forces and navies but denied in the House of Commons as late as 1911. When War broke out Britain found itself obliged to act more due to its ties with France – ties it couldn’t yet admit to (the secret talks) as well as the Triple Entente. The invasion of Belgium was a ‘godsend’ to Britain, now able to roll out the dusty Treaty it had once intended to renege on, and declare war on Germany. In any case it emerged publicly after the war, in 1925, from no less a source than French General Percin, that France had already intended to violate Belgian neutrality if Germany hadn’t acted first. This would have placed Britian in a very awkward situation indeed, though I wonder how the ‘Belgian Treaty’ would have held up in such an instance!

      So, what did the soldiers of WW1, and for whom Poppy Day (or Armistice Day) was inaugurated in 1919 lay down their lives for? Was it to ‘defend small nations’? For ‘democracy’? For ‘poor Catholic Belgium’? To ‘end all wars’? Etc., etc.,

      No – it was not. It was not fought for any of these reasons. It was fought – as usual – because of power struggles between the Establishments of combatant countries and the population brainwashed into following suit. It was fought mainly by the poor for the interests of the rich.

      Again, better people than I have made this point. Woodrow Wilson, speaking on September 5th, 1919 –

      “Is there any man or woman – let me say, is there any child – who does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?… this was an industrial and commercial war”

      I have heard World War One aptly described as a ‘European Civil War’.

      Returning to commemorations of Poppy Day, if this were made clear, and the public reminded that their ancestors had died for dubious reasons, I would have some respect for the ceremonies. It would imply that our political leaders were indeed horrified at the senseless slaughter and genuinely intent on ensuring no one ever had to die for or be misled into any unworthy cause again. It would imply that they would engage in no further wars or ask anyone to die or be mutilated unless, as I said, the reasons were sufficiently grave and wothwhile (and not just ‘worthwhile’ in the sense that the rich were able to get a bit richer). They might even decide to alter the Constitution to ensure war could never be declared again (except as a repsonse to direct attack or invasion) without a referendum from the public who as usual would be the ones doing most of the dying. Then I would say this Poppy Day has some merit.

      In fact what we see is that Poppy Day has been hijacked by the jingoistic elements of society in that it now resembles far more a solemn celebration of militarism. We are all instructed to ‘honour’ the dead but never allowed to scrutinize too closely the justifications which are given for why they died in the first place. We are certainly not allowed to suggest their deaths were actually in vain, as few of the stated aims of either World War were achieved.

      Rupert Brooke’s poignant “Solider” is the poem usually read out, its lines familiar to us all “If I should die, think only this of me / that’s there’s some corner of a foreign field…” It evokes heroism, sadness, Englishness, sacrifice, all the emotions that are required in the public mind on Poppy Day.

      Never have I heard Siegfried Sassoon’s poems being used to mark the occasion, for example, ‘Base Details” (google it)

      This wouldn’t fit the tone required for Poppy Day at all and might subject the whole Establishment that has instituted it as almost a religious festival (I think of how BBC personnel are required to wear the Poppy, there’s no freedom of convistion here, I imagine they’re a step away from handing them a white feather if they refused!) to embarrassing scrutiny.

      If I may quote Peter Brooke from his blog –

      “We could only defeat the Nazis by outdoing them in brutality. We killed hundreds of thousand of people and put Europe to the torch on the pretext of freeing Poland from Hitler. We finished by handing over Poland to Stalin”

      and to paraphrase him elsewhere – we did not win WW2 by saying ‘no’ to Auschwitz, but by saying ‘yes’ to Hiroshima and Dresden.

      So I think hard questions do need to be asked – and answered – in relation to just what it is we are doing on Poppy Day. You acknowledge as much in post no.56 when you state –

      “I want to understand how Ireland came to the sorry pass it is at now and like anything, that requires facing some hard truths about our past”

      Facing hard truths is never a bad thing, it allows us to strip away the dead wood from our world views. While asking us to do this in relation to 1916, you seem unable to accept that you might have to face some hard truths in connection with Poppy Day.

      1916, and the War of Independence that followed, are a reminder that the Poppy Day narrative is not as straightforward as we are asked to believe – Britain did not, and does not always fight morally justified wars. Enthusiastic proponents of Poppy Day will also have the less-palatable job of explaining why Britain’s armies were used to try and crush this small democracy’s bid for freedom. 1916 and the War of Independence are one of the blots on that copybook that won’t simply wash away.

      If we were truly intent on ‘honouring’ the war dead and seeing that no further needless sacrifice were to be made, I would side with soldiers like Siegfried Sassoon. One way would be to see monuments erected to peace-makers like the Pitstop Ploughshares and Raytheon 9 that tried to do something to make the currently hollow words of the UN “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares” a reality. And we could reclaim Poppy Day.

      Poppy Day needs either to be scrapped or overhauled in order to make it what it claims to be. It needs to be reclaimed from the war mongers and given back to the men who actually deserve it – the dead & wounded. I hope you understand now why I called it Poppycock Day – not out of any disrespect to our soldier ancestors (yours and mine) but because of the way their deaths are being cynically manipulated by the Powers-that-be in service of a more modern agenda.

      1916 and the War of Independence serve to remind us that there is another side to Poppy Day, a broader narrative. That is yet another reason why they should continue to be commemorated.

    • Sorry for the delay in moderating the comment. It is pretty long but quite thoughtful and an interesting contribution to the debate. This Peter Brooke sounds interesting.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Of course I meant your great aunt. Also, I should have specified social Darwinism and clarified I was referring to when Sinn Fein hooked up with the Brotherhood in 1917 – apologies.

      Your voluminous replies are very interesting and thought provoking and I feel like it’s a bit of a cop out but I simply do not have the time to give a substantive reply to the myriad of points you have raised.

      But I’ll pick a few …

      There is nothing inherent within Irish people, or any other people, that makes them ‘unfit’ to govern themselves. Nor did I ever say, or imply that there was.

      However, the fact remains that it is legitimate, given the evidence, to question how we have used the freedom we have to choose who governs us and how fit we are to use that freedom; it’s no different to a medical student not being ‘fit’ to carry out surgery just yet, but someday they will be.

      I beg to differ about your stance that Ireland hasn’t done so badly despite everything that has gone wrong. In terms of a country in Africa, then of course Ireland is a rip roaring success but compare Ireland to its peers and it performs very badly in terms of education, health and equality to name just three areas.

      I don’t blame 1916 for the current crisis but the reasons the current crisis arose are the same as why we failed to provide employment or an acceptable standard of living to our people after 1922 and have never reached a stage were we are not at the mercy of outside forces for our living be it diaspora remittances in the 50s/60s, money from the EU in the 70s/80s, US multinationals in the 90s and cheap credit in the 00s.

      The mindset that led to such failures is the same now in 2011 as it was in 1916 or 1922.

      Lots of other countries didn’t have banking crises but they had to operate within the same rules that we and the Greeks for example chose to ignore and our response to the crisis is markedly different to how for example Iceland responded – even setting aside it has its own currency.

      In Iceland, their PM tried to give the banks a blank cheque but the President vetoed it and then the people took to the streets and the government fell. That government is now up in front to be held to account for its failure of governance.

      Yet when our government gave the banks with closest links to Fianna Fáil a blank cheque the Irish people did absolutely nothing. Until of course when the most pampered generation of Irish people ever to have lived thought some of them might be means tested for medical cards and my God then the public got angry and they used their free travel passes to arrange a march on the Dáil to save their medical cards – travel passes and medical cards paid for by their own children, who are also paying their pensions and who also paid the whopping mortgages that gave that generation their property windfall.

      Isn’t it remarkable that it seems we are going to elect a Fianna Fáil builder as President – I wonder how long it will take before he has to resign if he wins – when will be his thundering disgrace moment.

      I don’t agree that Ireland in 1922 was in ruins – there were some streets that were and I know the pictures taken over O’Connell St Bridge makes it seem like the whole city was in ruins but it wasn’t and it didn’t have to be rebuilt from scratch like Bosnia or the Balkans. Also the Irish economy wasn’t in ruins either.

      My understanding is that Ireland argued it didn’t need Marshall Aid as it was in the Sterling area and could finance its fertiliser and coal needs through the dollar via the European Recovery Programme.

      But Irish civil servants couldn’t bring themselves to embrace change or God forbid anything American and the government tried to revive the 1938 Irish Anglo trade agreement, which it did and then sat back and did nothing, while all other countries were busy reforming and rebuilding.

      Again, to bring it back to Iceland, it was also a member of the Sterling area but had its own economic policy but instead of joining in – Ireland instead turned away to go back to being poor and inward and pretending all countries were an island.

      Didn’t Roy Foster say: ‘Ireland’s involvement in Marshall Aid, however, meant by implication involvement in Europe, as well as an admission of interdependence with the British economy; by the early 1950s, to some American observers at least, the extent of Ireland’s economic dependence on British markets made nonsense of Irish ‘sovereignty’. Even from Fianna Fáil, there was a more and more open acceptance that the economic policies of Ireland and Britain would have to be ‘dovetailed’ (de Valera’s word, mirabile dictu) for mutual advantage’.

      Why do you choose Italy as a comparison for corruption, why not compare Ireland to Denmark or Norway or Israel and when assessing Italy you can’t overlook the fact that more of Italy is run through its Local Government system than through the central government in Rome – so trotting out the mantra that Italy has had a new government every year doesn’t take into account the full picture and isn’t actually true as it’s had 3 governments in the last 10 years – the same as Ireland.

      The idea that Fine Gael was a fascist party is nonsense – certainly Desmond FitzGerald and John Costello were blue shirt supporters and the blue shirts arose in response to a threat against free speech from the IRA. Of course it’s far more complicated than that but I think you big up the blue shirts too much to compare them to actual real fascists like those in Spain, Italy and Germany.

      I notice you mention how in 1887 there was a scare Germany would invade France. I assume you refer to when General Boulanger was appointed French Minister of War but in Bismarck’s speech, on 11 January 1887, he said ‘we have no warlike needs, we are so to speak a saturated state’ and he spoke of the stability provided by the Three Emperor’s League and the Dual Alliance and it was General Boulanger not Bismarck who made the threats to the point he was called Général Revanche.

      I live in London and every Remembrance Sunday I see disfigured soldiers but I think the reason more are not seen is not that they are being hidden way, as I think you infer, but rather the sheer effort of marching through Whitehall is probably too much for them to so they are involved in other events.

      Your thoughts on the Poppy etc are akin to those who sit in their armchair and bemoan US Imperialism via Facebook and their I-Mac without any sense of irony or who can barely contain the thought that 9/11 was a payback and the idea that the Allies killed more than the Nazi’s is ridiculous and I don’t recall any of the Remembrance ceremonies glorifying the Generals or doing anything except remembering the dead.

      I hope you weren’t implying that the likes of the IRA should be included in a remembrance ceremony on the basis that their ‘war’ was as valid as WW1 or 2 or other conflicts!!

      I think we can both agree that the reality of life in the Free State and Republic was that it was very much a Catholic State for a Catholic people on a scale that applied in no other country, except perhaps in Spain, which was an actual recognised dictatorship.

      I’m not sure the level of Protestants allowed to serve went beyond a few token ones in the first Senate, who were swiftly removed after the new constitution and most Protestants simply kept their heads down. I know my family retreated behind the gates and battened down the hatches.

      But the reason for this debate is to determine the context within which the centenary of 1916 should be remembered in 2016 and I believe when we look at the stated aims of those involved in 1916 and what it actually led to, then there is little to celebrate.

      It’s all very well pointing out the words of the Proclamation but they have never put into practice and if the leaders of 1916 had lived, would it have made any difference?

      As things stand in 2016 we will repeat the same glorification of 1916 and those who caused it and were killed as a result of their actions, some innocent some not, without assessing if we were better off without them, which brings me back to what actually happened after 1916 right up to the present day.

      1916 wanted to grant independence to the entire island of Ireland (why is not clear as there was never a previous united Ireland) under one united government, well we still don’t have that and never will and if the Presidential election has shown anything, it is that most people in the South don’t really like Northern people in general, but individually a few, especially those who call themselves nationalist. Maybe it’s the grating accent or the even bigger chip on their shoulder I don’t know.

      The irony is that we are going to celebrate the very event that made its stated goal impossible to attain as Home Rule would have granted an all island government. Also it was members of the actual Irish government who provided the weapons used by the PIRA to kill more Catholics than were ever killed by loyalist terrorists and the mentality that led to this can be traced back to 1916.

      As I have said before I believe without 1916 the entire history of Ireland could have been peaceful instead of violent and I believe the best of both traditions could have been been joined together for the good of all the people of Ireland and not instead the worse traits of each community hard-wired and we could have avoided the consequences of 1916 such as the War of Independence you mentioned, the Civil War and all the legacies of that.

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