Michael McDowell argues that the conflation of history and politics especially at a ninety year remove is futile. He goes on to argue that Republicanism’s greatest challenge is to address its own failure to provide the means for reconciliation of the two main traditions on the island.
At this remove, railing against the respective positions in 1916 of Redmond, or of Pearse and Connolly, or of MacNeill is futile and, I think, faintly ridiculous. Each had his courage, his beliefs and his own integrity and fidelity to Ireland. To acknowledge that in respect of each of them is not to diminish any of them. To rubbish their patriotism or sacrifices is self-indulgent. Their times were complex. The sequence and out-turn of events was neither inevitable nor pre-ordained.
Revolutionary acts throughout history, whether successful or not, always hang by their own boot-straps to await the judgment of history. Which is not to say that politics, as distinct from history, is amoral. I merely point out that history is a rich storehouse as much for error as it is for inspiration. In a liberal democratic society such as ours, there are no mandates from history. Republican mandates come from the ballot box – not the Armalite or ideology.
He beleives that in looking back the proper place to begin is the birth of Republicanism in Ireland:
As a 21st century Irish republican, I believe that recent events more than ever set us the challenge of reconciling green and orange – a challenge which has never been taken up successfully by Irish republicans since the 1790s. That aspiration of the 1916 Proclamation remains unfinished business. And the 90th anniversary celebration of Easter 1916 should not blind us – even momentarily – to our challenging republican vocation of reconciliation.