War and commemoration
Sir, – Of course the spat between John Bruton, Éamon Ó Cuív and Gerry Adams “will run and run” (Editorial, August 6th).
Bruton says the British 1914 Home Rule Bill would have created a peaceful momentum towards freedom. He is right. Adams and Ó Cuív say that 1916 was necessary as an expression of republican aspirations. They are right. It is not merely political posturing by all three of them – although it most certainly is that too. The dichotomy at the heart of this argument, which proves the point of your editorial, is that Bruton and Ó Cuív are both right.
But are their postures reconcilable or mutually incompatible? The key to this dichotomy is the role of selective memory, and the significance of commemoration. To remember is not necessarily to glorify, yet “keeping faith” with the men (and women) of 1916 does imbue them with a tinge of glory. How much tinge depends on your political perspective. To believe in constitutional processes is far less glamorous, but perhaps more realistic. 1916 was a calculated failure, a rhetorical flourish, backed up by Pearse’s idea of blood sacrifice. The Free State achieved its stability by very dull constitutional means, with Fianna Fáil acceding to power only after de Valera had accepted the need for such stability, in a similar way to the IRA’s decision to disarm.
There will always be different versions of history, depending on how much hurt the historian wishes to inflict and how much blame to attribute. A historian is, after all, a politician by other means. Forgetting is as important as remembering. The knack, as every politician knows, is the ability to forget well. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – However one interprets the case for or against the 1916 rising, its long-term cost to Ireland’s cultural landscape should be acknowledged. The senseless destruction of Ireland’s national archives at the Four Courts was matched nation-wide by an equally regrettable series of attacks on country manors, with priceless collections of historic Irish manuscripts, artworks and artefacts reduced to ashes.
Subsequent alienation of Southern Protestants has resulted in a divided society in those areas where that minority were not forced out entirely. When will we reconcile ourselves to these self-inflicted wounds? – Yours, etc.,
Sir, – I note your headline (August 8th) “British urgently want the blood of Irish people”. No change there then. – Yours, etc,