Former taoiseach John Bruton last night said that Padraig Pearse had “rejoiced” in the use of violence and legitimated the later existence of the Provisional IRA. Speaking in London, Mr Bruton said: “He legitimated violence and I don’t agree with violence. I don’t think it was a good idea then, and I don’t think it was a good idea between 1969 and 1998.”
Mr Bruton was one of a number of speakers who addressed an event in the Irish Embassy last night to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Home Rule Act. Speaking later to The Irish Times, Mr Bruton said he did not believe that "the problems of Ireland" then were "amenable to solution" by violence.
“But Padraig Pearse rejoiced in violence. He rejoiced in the prospect of unionists arming. I think he was wrong about that. He was a romantic,” he said.
The belief in the spiritual cleansing was not just one shared by Pearse at the time, he said, noting that the belief was prevalent in other countries in the run-up to the first World War. “I don’t think that that belief was particularly strong in England at the time but it was the case in other countries, and it played a role in the willingness of countries to take part in the war,” he said.
During the debate on the Home Rule Act, Mr Bruton said it must be remembered that one-third of the soldiers who died fighting during Easter week had been Irish.
“We have got to ask about the damage that was done to the Irish psyche by the violence of that week and by the violence of 1919, 1920 and 1921.”
If violence had “not been introduced into nationalism in Holy Week”, there would not have been a civil war, the former taoiseach said. Asked if Pearse had “justified” the existence of the IRA, Mr Bruton said: “I suppose so, yes. He could not have been more wrong. Violence is about killing, remember that.”
Later, he said: “It is a very hard to be both a fan of Padraig Pearse and of John Redmond. And I am a Redmondite, and I always have been.”
Opening the event, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said relatives of the Easter Rising volunteers would be closely involved in the 2016 commemorations.