Rising, WW1 commemoration plan criticised


THE GOVERNMENT plan to balance the commemoration of those who fought in the Easter Rising and the War of Independence with an honouring of the “imperialist slaughter” of the first World War does a disservice to those whose sacrifice led to Irish freedom, according to artist Robert Ballagh.

Speaking at a commemoration at Fitzgerald Park in Cork to remember War of Independence guerilla leader Tom Barry, Ballagh said Barry and his comrades were not motivated by some abstract notion of freedom but by a desire to create a genuine republic.

He said he had great concerns about the programme being drawn up by the Government to mark “the decade of commemoration”, as he believed it was aimed at diminishing the events upon which the modern Irish State was founded, such as the Easter Rising and the War of Independence.

“They talk of ‘balancing’ the 1916 Rising with the battle of the Somme’s imperialist slaughter in a genuine spirit of partnership. As a citizen of the Irish Republic, I know of no other self-respecting republic whose government would seek to diminish the foundation stone of that republic,” he said.

“Can you imagine any US president or French president calling for the proud republican commemorations of the 4th of July or Bastille Day on the 14th of July to be muted or balanced by commemorations of North American loyalism or the Bourbon dynasty ?

“This republic can only honour its own War of Independence, not the imperialist Great War,” said Ballagh, adding that those Irish who died in foreign wars were already properly and rightly remembered in the National Day of Commemoration each July.

He quoted Cumann na nGaedheal minister for justice Kevin O’Higgins, whom he described as “hardly the darling of Republicans”, to support his view that the Irish Government should not officially commemorate the first World War. “Notwithstanding that his own brother, Michael, had perished in Flanders in a British army uniform, the Cumann na nGaedheal minister for justice proclaimed the following in the Dáil in 1927,” Ballagh told the 100-strong gathering, before quoting O’Higgins.

“‘No one denies the sacrifice and no one denies the patriotic motives which induced the vast majority of these men to join the British army to take part in the Great War, and yet it is not on their sacrifice that this State is based and I have no desire to see it suggested that it is,” he quoted.

He suggested Ireland would be be better advised to look towards Tom Barry and his comrades, whose sacrifices were aimed at creating a republic based on the principles enunciated in the 1916 proclamation and the democratic programme of the first Dáil.

“We would be well served to acknowledge and learn from the vision and bravery and sacrifice of heroes like Tom Barry rather than seek to mute their achievement and balance it with other historical events which played no part in our struggle for freedom,” he added.