Start of 2016 commemorations


Sir, – Taoiseach Enda Kenny says that Easter 1916 “has been the moment we have chosen to commemorate as marking the birth of our sovereign nation” (“Dublin Castle ceremony marks start of 1916 commemorations”, January 1st).

But does it really mark that, and was it right to make that choice?

And is it a choice consistent with historical fact, or merely an uncritical identification with an event that has been deeply mythologised in the intervening years?

The Rising in 1916 was the act of men and women with a messianic vision for which they had no democratic mandate or moral justification.

The legitimacy of the present Irish state – of our “sovereign nation”, to use the Taoiseach’s terminology – derives from the acceptance of it by the vast majority of the Irish people today, and that legitimacy is compromised by association with an event which was clearly deplored by an equally vast majority of the Irish people when it occurred.

The precedent of the Rising inspired a cycle of political violence by unrepresentative minorities who have repeatedly threatened to undermine the democratic and truly republican character of the independent Irish state.

For this reason, if for no other, it seems to me utterly perverse for the Irish state to choose Easter 1916 as its date of birth and to commemorate the Rising accordingly.

The Irish state should date its origin to the 1918 general election and the first meeting of Dáil Éireann in January 1919 – orderly political events, not wanton violence. And remember that the 1918 election was won in Ireland by the Sinn Féin party which had no hand, act or part in the 1916 Rising and which post-1917 was a much broader coalition of advanced nationalists than the IRB cabal that had brought about the Rising. Moreover, the Sinn Féin triumph in December 1918 was boosted by the anti-conscription campaign earlier in 1918. So there is not a clear line of descent from 1916 to 1918. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.