Legacy of 1916 is “two amputee states” and events which do not deserve to be celebrated?

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 … Read more

1916 Rising and getting beyond the commodification of remembrance [Redux]…

So the decade of commemorations? Remember that? So far it has turned out to be little more than a damp squib. The reason for that may lie in the fact that it was originally framed by an Irish government which is no longer in power, and at a time when money and resources were less of an object than in these times of austerity. One of the governing ideas of this decade was to begin to look for island wide … Read more

1916 Centenary – Cherishing All the Children Equally?

Yesterday we saw the government reveal more detailed plans regarding the official commemoration of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Plans to mark this key event in the history of the state include a major exhibition of 1916 archival material at the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks and series of commemorative events, including a parade from Dublin Castle to Parnell Square on Easter Sunday 2016 and a special state reception for the 1916 relatives. In order to … Read more

Remembrance: Could we ‘hack’ a common purpose from our shared and bloody history?

‘Traditions’ which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented. Eric Hobsbawm In his introduction to a 1983 collection of essays Eric Hobsbawm notes not only that traditions are by definition ‘unchanging and invariant’, but that they are themselves created or invented as a response to rapid technological and social change in wider society. A solid fixed point in a modern urbanised society that has less time for the transmission of immutable custom. … Read more

After Commemorations: In the future we should ensure that our weapon of choice is friendship!

On the 9th December 2014 the Four Corners Festival is hosting a night at Strand Arts Centre to screen “Joyeux Noel”, a film about the Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day, 1914. It is being held to celebrate the courage of those who stepped into “No Man’s Land”, during times of conflict, to show a different way. The French film from 2005 relates the events of that day, seen through the eyes of French, … Read more

BIPA and facing the difficult politics of a common history….

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly  delved deep into history to commemorate the centenary of the Great War and to highlight the long hidden and shared contribution of soldiers – Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist – as a means of overcoming present differences. Many cite the comment by Churchill at the end of that war that “The whole map of Europe has been changed … The mode of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in … Read more

“In the last analysis the test of nationality is the wish of the people.”

Ronan Fanning took the theme for his most recent book from David Lloyd George in the House of Commons in 1919, “there is a path of fatality between the two countries and makes them eternally at cross purposes“. In the Irish Times Fanning takes John Bruton to task for suggesting that the Home Rule Bill be commemorated this September, for the very specific reason that (like the unified island it was supposed to presage) it never properly or fully came … Read more

How the blood sacrifice of 1916 bequeathed independent Ireland to “the till-minders and crawthumpers”

I like the opening of John Waters’ column today… You have to hand it to Enda: at least he has courage. I have in mind “courage” in the Sir Humphrey sense – as on the occasion when minister Hacker announces his determination to go through with some “principled” proposal of his, in the face of the warnings of his executive advisers. Having listened patiently, Sir Humphrey declares: “Very courageous, minister”. The word “courageous” triggers a note of panic in Jim … Read more

If Ireland north and south can commemorate the First World War together, so should the Germans alongside the wartime Allies

A piece in the Indy by Matthew Norman on the UK’s plans to commemorate World War 1 has to be read quite carefully to register the satire against the (English) Culture secretary’s smiley  moral equivalence approach to the vexed issue of war guilt. Were the Germans the clear aggressors or “were we all to blame?” The subject will never die. In his magisterial “The Sleepwalkers,” written last year the Cambridge historian Christopher Clarke  makes the case for shared guilt after an … Read more

Micheál Martin: Legacy of 1916 is to build rather than to divide the Irish nation…

Just out of embargo, here’s today’s speech from the Fianna Fail leader made just now at Arbour Hill church, where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were buried. The added emphases are mine: Every state should take time to commemorate and celebrate the people and events of their founding. This commemoration is organised by Fianna Fáil the Republican Party, but we come here as Irish men and women to fulfil our responsibilities to the great generation of 1916. After … Read more

Decade of remembrance, reconciliation or renewal?

Here’s something we’ve been poor at talking about so far. Last year was the first of a decade of significant centenaries in Irish history. The first of them, the signing of the Convenant actually passed without a great deal of comment, or any serious revisiting of its meaning in contemporary society. On on level the dearth of public comment and/or debate might be seen as a good thing. But in fact treating these momentous events as so many notches on … Read more

We need fresher thinking than this

Two New Year articles worth noting which struggle with the abiding theme. Given prime billing in the Irish Times, Robin Wilson laments the anti-democratic and physical force elements in both of our traditions as we move further into the decade of commemoration. His historical sweep of a century reinforces his determinist case against the GFA accommodation, leading to his usual bleak conclusion. For Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, the Northern Ireland “peace process” was defined by a realpolitik where moral … Read more

Why half centenaries are deadlier than the decade of centenaries just about to begin…

FitzJamesHorse’s blog has great piece on history and human memory, not least on what living through a violent period of history reveals about ordinary life… You should really read the whole thing, but here’s his conclusion: I believe that the present obsession with the Decade of Centenaries……..Ulster Covenant (1912), Easter (1916), Somme (1916), Partition (1922)………deflects from a Decade of Half-Centenaries…….the O’Neill Years (1963-70), the first murders of the modern Troubles (John Scullion and Peter Ward in 1966), the first Civil … Read more

Signing up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future?

1912 A Hundred Years On - still

At Thursday night’s annual Catherwood Lecture, Johnston McMaster covered a lot of ground in his talk entitled Signing up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future? He started by explaining that his grandfather had signed the covenant, and continued to question throughout the talk whether he would have signed it if he’d lived 100 years ago. Looking back at history and at the same time looking forward from today was a key tenet of his lecture, and mirrored … Read more

GAA promises to attend all coming ‘milestones’ (even Unionist ones)…

You do wonder sometimes whether everything in Northern Ireland’s public space (and if I may be so bold, Slugger included) is a good five years behind where ordinary people are. Sam McBride has a fascinating piece on the front page of the News Letter today… Danny Murphy, who is provisional director of the GAA in Ulster, said that his association – despite its long association with nationalism and republicanism – would attend “every event” in the next decade to remember … Read more