There are a lot of pieces going around today looking back at the Rising and its subsequent impact on the direction of Irish politics. But, I wanted to tell a different story of how the Rising inspired me and impacted on my future direction and beliefs. I don’t claim that this story is indicative of anything, other than my own political values, nor do I believe it is more valuable than other stories, which I hope commentators will share in the comments section below. This is just my story, of learning about the Rising and how it has impacted on me.
In 1994, I was six years of age, taking the annual family visit to Dublin to do some Christmas shopping. We would always take in the sights and do the normal things that people did on a weekend trip, but for me this visit was different. Being so young, I was aware but didn’t really understand what was going on in Ireland at that time. My parents typically tried to play down the soldiers on the streets and news reports of bombs (I was always the child in family who questioned everything).
But, on this trip to Dublin, my Dad decided to break at least one of the taboos and tell me the story about the Easter Rising. Here, I should mention something about him, a diehard Republican with a love of Irish history, who in his twenties met an English lady (my mother) and settled down. This contradiction is something that still provides a great source of slagging from me to this day.
This visit to Dublin stands out for me, as I remember him taking just me and none of my siblings.
We began with the GPO, as he regaled me with the words of the proclamation and where it was read out to the people, my imagination wondered trying to visualise it all. He told me about the bravery of men who withstood shelling from the British for a week straight and the now infamous story of James Connolly’s execution. Fully animated at this stage, my Dad had even been able to gain the interest of some American tourists, who like me were hanging off his every word.
While many of the minor details of the event escape me now, remembering him putting my fingers in the bullet holes along the columns outside the GPO will be a lasting memory for me.
This event because I shared it with someone I cared about, ignited my love of Ireland and my path towards Republicanism. Gradually over the years, I learned more about the Rising and its consequences, and while I naturally departed somewhat from the ardently pro-1916 view that my father had, it was this experience that instilled in me the idea that everybody no matter what they did or who they were should be able to participate in the running of a nation.
I did not embrace Republicanism, out of hatred or a fear of someone else. Rather, it was a love of something and being totally captivated by its ideals and hopes. I am a Republican, because I believe that this form of government can deliver progress and prosperity for all of our people.
The 1916 Rising inspired my Dad, who then passed on his passion to me. That for me while it’s not recorded in any history book is a huge part of its legacy. The values that still guide me today began to take shape by hearing this story.
Other people have their own stories, I am sure that people reading this could recall a similar experience. But, as I pause to think about the Rising and what it means to me, I cannot get away from that day with my father in 1994. This is my story and I thought I would share it with you all today. I would love to hear yours.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs