British ambassador: Easter Rising is worthy of respect

Ireland’s struggle against a ‘larger and overbearing neighbour’ was significant

Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

The British ambassador to Dublin Dominick Chilcott said indulging in counterfactual arguments that Irish independence could have been achieved by peaceful means was “fun”, but it was not the route that Ireland took to independence.

He told a debate at UCD’s Law Society it was better in the centenary year of the Easter Rising to concentrate on “what actually happened rather than what might have happened”.

Speaking in favour of a motion that the Rising should be commemorated, he said: “It seems right that this country, in celebrating its independence that was won after a long struggle against a larger and overbearing neighbour, should remember the key events in the actual path to independence.”

He described Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Garden of Remembrance as the “catalytic moment” when history fast-forwarded from weariness to friendship.

“The transformation burst into life in that simple, very moving, highly significant commemoration of those who lost their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.”

Moral justification

Mr Chilcott

“These arguments, though they have their places . . . are beside the points as far as this motion is concerned,” he said.

“There is no need to debate the rights and wrongs of the Rising to conclude that it is worthy of commemoration.”

That did not mean a “carte blanche” to conduct any kind of commemoration. “The manner in which we, the people of these islands, look back and reflect on our history is important.”

He referenced a statement from 2012 about British-Irish relations by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the British prime minister David Cameron about centenary commemorations.

“This series of commemorations offers us an opportunity to explore and reflect on key episodes of our past. We will do so in the spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusivity and reconciliation. The more partisan that commemorations are, the more they reanimate the differences of the past.”