This 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising has been an oddly damp affair. For all the great chatter about who was going to be in government by Easter 2016, it turns out that no one is. Possibly that’s appropriate for a most ungovernmently type of revolution.
The so-called Decade of Commemorations framed by the last Fianna Fail led government as having the potential to promote reconciliation is barely mentioned these days. The preparations have either been partial or a grand exercise in political caution.
For all the great revisiting the history of the times, the assiduous avoidance of controversy possibly leaves too much unsaid. Although Victoria White in The Examiner is not behind the door in laying out the most abiding failure from that revolutionary era, partition:
What partition meant to communities, such as the Presbyterians of Stranorlar, Co. Donegal, is silenced history. Imagine the shock and outrage they must have felt when they learned that the border was to shift them into the Free State? And all over again, when the Boundary Commission recommended, in 1925, that they be moved back into the UK, a recommendation that was ignored by both sovereign states?
My grandfather was the headmaster in the Robertson School, where he met my granny, a fellow teacher. They were Irish: they trained in Dublin. They bought their wedding-ring, which I wear, in Derry. They had cousins, the McCalls, who ran the Model Farm in Cork.
They could never have imagined that the border would come down like a blade. They could never have imagined, either, that they would be asked to learn Irish. I remember the bitterness with which this was recalled, but much digging has not yet dug up exactly what happened to them — did they leave their jobs or was some fudge cooked up?
Eighty-six percent of Donegal Protestants surveyed in 2001 were loyal to the Irish State — as opposed to 9% claiming loyalty to the North. But I don’t believe many Irish Protestants will celebrate 1916, a fact that has been whispered in several conversations I have had with other Protestants.
It is the first time I have ever identified myself in any way with ‘the tribe’. And it’s not good. But I can’t deny what I feel, which is that the military campaigns that opposed each other, and which created the Irish State, have left behind two amputee states and do not deserve to be celebrated this weekend.
Without the mutual framing of the Decade of Commemorations – and the possibility of pulling Unionist and Republican histories into a single pluralist space – Partition defines the nature of the official celebrations, and the various distances felt by those in Northern Ireland.