Wesley Boyd: The link from Pearse to Vinnie Ryan cannot be ignored
The funeral of dissident republican Vinnie Ryan , at Donaghmede , Co. Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Let me rain on the parade. As the planes roared over the Liffey’s swell and the bands played and the soldiers marched along O’Connell Street I recalled a gable wall I had seen a few days earlier in Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Across it was scrawled in white paint: Vinnie Ryan RIP.
The commemoration on an Ulster gable of Vincent Ryan, an apparently casual member of a dissident republican group and the victim of a recent gangland killing in Dublin, provided an uncomfortable link to the official commemoration of the men and women of 1916 at the GPO.
The politicians sitting on the reviewing stands,contentedly nodding and smiling like mini-Stalins at an October parade in Red Square, as the biggest display of military weaponry in the history of the State passed by, may not like to acknowledge the connection.
But the ugly reality is that, 100 years on, the bloodstained chain “of the dead generations” is maintained, not only in Dublin and Tyrone but in every county on the island.
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic of 1916 provides the grease that keeps the chain supple. Every act of violence has been and continues to be justified by “the fundamental right” to assert in arms the right to “national freedom and sovereignty”. The death franchise established by Pearse and his comrades is still being traded.
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They are at it still. The real children of the present generation have been sprinkled with the blood of the Proclamation at events in schools throughout the country, and infants have been togged out in military uniforms and given mock weapons to carry at re-enactments of various local battles of the Rising.
Historians can argue for another century about what might have been achieved or could have been achieved if the Rising had not taken place. One thing that it certainly failed to do was to fulfil the stated aim of attracting “the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman”.
Those who took part in the Rising may have shared their ambitions but they succeeded only in robbing the Protestants of the North of the concept of Irishness and fostered a blind allegiance to the crown, which successive campaigns of violence have served to copperfasten.
The Rising continues to be divisive, not only in the North. Consider extracts from two speeches made at events associated with the centenary commemoration published on the same day.
In Dublin, former taoiseach John Bruton was concerned that children who had been taught about the Proclamation should also be made aware of the peaceful efforts to secure independence by John Redmond and John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party. “ . . . They got the job done” he said. “They got Home Rule passed into law, they won back the land. In contrast, the 32-county Republic, proclaimed at the GPO in 1916, never came into existence.” He went on to label the Proclamation as a “ recipe for endless conflict”.
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“There are those who would have us believe that these men and women cannot be equated with those of 1916,” he said. “They are hypocrites. Bobby Sands was a revolutionary and visionary in the same vein as James Connolly and Pádraig Pearse.”
When will Vinnie Ryan join the pantheon? Wesley Boyd is a former head of news at RTÉ