Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says John Bruton

Ireland could have taken same ‘peaceful path’ to independence with Home Rule

Former taoiseach John Bruton: “If the 1916 leaders had had more patience, a lot of destruction could have been avoided.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Former taoiseach John Bruton: “If the 1916 leaders had had more patience, a lot of destruction could have been avoided.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is considering today, according to former taoiseach John Bruton.

In a speech today on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Home Rule Bill into law (September 18th, 1914), Mr Bruton pointed to the way the referendum on independence for Scotland had come about.

“Scotland is going to the polls to decide if it wants complete independence. Whatever decision they make today, the Scots are exercising full national self-determination.

“That came about because, for the past number of years, Scotland has had a home rule government, and a home rule parliament, and a majority in that parliament was later democratically won by a party that wanted complete independence. That could have happened in Ireland too – 90 years ago,” Mr Bruton told a seminar at the Royal Irish Academy, organised by the Reform Group.

He said the experience of home rule, of making their own laws in Scotland, of administering their own services and making their own policies, had given the Scots the self-confidence, and the international credibility, to freely consider moving to full independence.

‘Bitterness of war

’ “All that has happened in Scotland without loss of life, without the bitterness of war. Ireland was given a similar opportunity 100 years ago this week, to move through home rule, towards ever-greater independence, gradually and peacefully, when Home Rule for Ireland became law on September 18th, 1914. Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is now considering taking.”

He said that for various reasons that path was not followed but the fact that Ireland won, through parliamentary methods, the opportunity to take it should be celebrated by this parliamentary democracy, 100 years later.

“Given that this is a parliamentary democracy, one of the oldest surviving ones in Europe, one that did not descend into totalitarianism during the 20th century, it is important that we should celebrate parliamentary achievements. Remembering democratic, non-violent achievements should be part of the civic education of our nation.”

Home Rule

Mr Bruton welcomed the fact that Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan will deliver a speech on Home Rule in Wicklow.

“Given that the Home Rule Act of 1914 provided Ireland with a right, a right that had been denied for the previous 114 years, the right to an Irish legislature meeting in Ireland, its centenary today should be specially marked today in our legislature, in the Dáil and Seanad Éireann,” he said.

Mr Bruton repeated his argument that the 1916 Rising was a mistake. “The reality is that, in 1916, Home Rule was on the statute book and was not about to be reversed. If the 1916 leaders had had more patience, a lot of destruction could have been avoided, and I believe we would still have achieved the independence we enjoy today.”

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