1916 banners on College Green
Sir, – I welcome the four portraits of constitutional nationalist leaders draped over the entrance to Ireland’s first native parliament in College Green. (“Four unlikely leaders celebrated on Easter Rising banners,” March 15th).
The “criticism as well as confusion” which the banner has caused amongst some of the public is understandable because 1916 has always been used to celebrate romantic rather than practical politics.
This has encouraged a narrow-minded definition of Irish nationality and how our nation came into being.
Democratic nationhood lies in a long tradition of practical, constitutional politics led by the four men featured on College Green.
It was the democratic strand of Irish nationalist thought which eventually won out over the heroic gestures of a small band of 1916 activists with little public support and no democratic power.
Henry Grattan, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and John Redmond fought for democratic, pluralist politics.
The vast majority of Irish people supported this in 1916.
If this banner succeeds in representing the views of those people, it will have achieved something; if it encourages more debate about our political heritage than mere hero worship, it might help us to appreciate the full diversity and richness of our history and to value practical political movements over empty gestures to romantic ideals.
– Yours, etc,
Sir, – The inclusion of Henry Grattan, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and John Redmond on a large centenary display on the portico of the old parliament building is at best a sloppy mistake.
The fact that the idea for the banner came from the Taoiseach’s Office is no surprise and the decoration will be remembered by future historians as part of the pathetic hand-wringing and blinkered vision for 2016 that has come from that sector of government over the past few years.
Some ideas, like the men pictured, should remain unexecuted. – Yours, etc,