Sean Haughey, Aodhan O’Riordain and 1916

1916 means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Like any historical event it is open to interpretation by those viewing it from the safe distance time provides. People will use it to justify their actions and people will denigrate it to advance their personal views. I have no doubt that those who fought in 1916 were acutely aware of that and aware of their place in history. In the end it has become something that defines us in our own way. It is not about what we think of 1916 that matters so much as what we think of our role and our place in history. What are we doing with our time and our country?

History takes many twists and turns as we work through these questions. I was raised on the belief that 1916 was a heroic and selfless act. I was taught to respect and honour it. I know former Junior Minister Sean Haughey was taught this too. I also know another former Junior Minister, Aodhain O’Riordain was raised in this tradition. O’Riordain took his seat in 2011 while Sean Haughey lost his only to regain it again in 2016 at O’Riordain’s expense. These are two pedigree Dubliners. I, on the other hand am a culchie to my core who enjoys nothing more than seeing the Dub’ on the losing end of anything. A good humoured traditional rivalry. I was also brought up in a strong FF household but as a diehard partisan of Albert Reynolds. These days my active service is behind me and I either just commentate on the game or give advice to all comers regardless of party or background.

Now that the two lads have finished knocking lumps out of each other in the election and I have finished commenting on them doing it I’d like to tell a story of what binds this unlikely trio together. A heroic ideal. A connection rooted at the heart of all we say and do. A root of activism that starts in 1916.

Two 17 year olds took up arms that Easter Monday and waded into a revolution. Two youngsters who would not even have a vote today. Yet they knew what they wanted and believed. It might be easy for some to mock that but I don’t. I had a clearer view of things when I was 17 than I did at 27 and it took me a few more years to finally get back to realizing I might have been right when I was younger.

Micheál O’Reardon served in the Four Courts during the rising. Sean Lemass was his commanding officer. Both just 17 and both ready to face life and death for a cause. Years later when O’Reardon applied for his military pension it was Lemass who vouched for him and his service in 1916. Lemass of course is the Grandfather of Sean Haughey. O’Reardon is the Granduncle of both Aodhain O’Riordain and me.

Their actions sparked something in a family line that would be forever talked about. Their actions led to an involvement in politics, an obsession with issues and a desire to change things. I think all three of us today would vouch for this. Yet here we are, 3 men a lot older than 17. One a former Fianna Fail Junior Minister, current TD and member of a powerful political dynasty. One a former minister, former TD and current Seanad Candidate for the Labour party. I, a communications adviser for hire and Reynolds die hard. Two hardened Dubs and one committed Culchie. Families that have crossed political parties in a search for answers, and followed different leaders and heroes along the way. I for one am proud of both men and their efforts and opinions even though we often disagreed while on this journey.

The roots of 1916 among all families run wide and deep. It is dangerous to ever claim that anyone has monopoly on it. It is dangerous to ever suggest there is one interpretation. It is even more dangerous to start trying to superimpose those men and women on current times and say what they would think. The truth is we are all inheritors of it in one way or another. We all share one common goal, to make this a better place for everyone. We just disagree on how to get there. Perhaps if there is one lesson it could be that after 100 years we might admit that and respect each other just a little bit more.

Johnny Fallon

  • Saint Etienne

    “It is dangerous to ever suggest there is one interpretation.”

    That sounds nice, in fact it sounds similar to what your president said within earshot of a Northern audience. However as I’ve intimated I see no alternative interpretations manifesting themselves in schools across your country today.

  • Jollyraj

    It is very tiresome, this glamorization of young men throwing their lives away so young and to no good purpose. This is the very same crap that underpins many of the things wrong with society today, from disaffected young men running off to join ISIS to the depressing cycle of black-on-black crime in some US cities, where teenage boys who see no good future for themselves are seduced by rap music lyrics into believing the ho######it that an early death is something to respect. In all three cases you find evil, old men sitting back and enriching themselves off the back of it. From the Irish Republican death cult, to the high command of ISIS to record producers in LA.

    “Both ready to face life and death for a cause”. Would you ever give it a rest and stop promoting this poisonous BS?

  • Séamus

    It’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

  • Anglo-Irish

    So presumably you take the same view when it comes to all wars?

    You believe that WW1, which was a war in which the King the Kaiser and the Czar were all first cousins was also brought about by the actions of ‘evil old men’?

    You believe that the war in Iraq which resulted in billions being made by corporations such as Halliburton and J P Morgan and millions being made by such as Blair and Cheney was also brought about by evil old influential men?

    If so, fair enough, although it has to be said that in comparison the 1916 uprising was practically noble by comparison wasn’t it?

    Unlike WW1 and Iraq the instigators did not enrich themselves, neither did many of them live to tell the tale.

    They were brave enough to pay the ultimate sacrifice and went into it knowing full well what the outcome was liable to be.

    So whatever you may think of them sat safely behind your keyboard they were ten times the men that the King,Kaiser, Czar, Blair, Bush and Cheney were and are.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Did you go to school in the UK? If so did they teach you any history?

    If so did they mention the complete obliteration of a unique race of people by the British Empire?

    Did you learn of the invention of concentration camps by the British during the Boer war and the fact that over 100.000 people died in them?

    Were you told of the torture of Kenyans including Barack Obamas grandfather by the British and how they castrated and raped Kenyans during the insurrection?

    You have the unmitigated gall to keep whining on about the Irish teaching their history when the crimes of the British empire are plain for anyone to see.

    May I suggest that you shut up and stop making yourself look like an absolute idiot?

  • Jollyraj

    Do I take the same view when it comes to all wars? No, because each war was different. Do I agree with you comments on WWI and Iraq. Yes, almost entirely. But then, being the closet Irish Republican that you are, you can’t help but try to claim a special exemption on morality for the Irish, with talk of bravery, sacrifice – no, I’m afraid people like you are the reason why people like them will continue to go to the grave early in every country.

    As to your ‘sat safely behind your keyboard’ comment, I will not dignify your ignorance with a response.

  • Hugh Davison

    So Rap music is to blame? Thought so, but didn’t dare to say it in case it sounded racist. I’m glad you nailed that one for me.

  • Reader

    The Spanish invented concentration camps, not the British.
    27,000 people died in the camps, the unintended consequence of administrative incompetence and disease.
    By the way – your entirely predictable whataboutery is a dire contribution to an interesting topic.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I see, in other words you are fully prepared to make exception for the violence used by Empires in order to increase their territory and power and influence, but when it comes to a small virtually powerless country fighting for its freedom from Empire you come over all self righteous and whiny.

    Tell me this, isn’t it true that the ROI has developed into a country which has provided opportunity and living standards for its citizens which have exceeded those provided for the citizens of the UK with the exception of the South East of England?

    Given that countries should be judged on the living standards and quality of life of their citizens then the Republic is a good thing.

    And there’s nothing closet about my Irish Republicanism, I’m a citizen of the Republic and have held an Irish passport since 1972.

    Whilst I abhor violence I wish to see a peacefully achieved united Ireland.

    I also object to members of the PUL community who constantly complain about nationalist violence but have little to say about the so called ‘loyalists’ habit of targeting civilians, 87.2% of all their murders in fact.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Didn’t they?

    Then take it up with this guy.

    Or this one.

    Nice attempt at deflection by the way, the main point being that the British used them and by the way it is estimated that over 22,000 children died in the camps, difficult to be precise as to exact numbers as they didn’t count the black deaths.

    And for the record my predictable whataboutery was in response to your mate Jollyraj and his equally predictable ‘aren’t ‘themmuns’ terrible people having the effrontery to remember their history.’

  • Jollyraj

    “In other words you are fully prepared to make exception for the violence used by Empires in order to increase their territory and power and influence, but when it comes to a small virtually powerless country fighting for its freedom……”

    Nope. If you can’t read, or understand, the comment you are replying to it’s probably better not to reply at all.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I read it and understood it perfectly, you dodged the question by coming up with an evasive ” each war was different ” fudge.

    However, given that you object to a country fighting for its freedom against a colonising power, and that most other wars are fought for profit it’s perfectly reasonable to make the assumption that you don’t object to certain wars that are waged for the purposes of Empire isn’t it?

    Aside from WW2 (which although it came about as a direct result of the machinations of WW1 could be claimed with some justification as being fought for freedom ) what other wars do you believe to have been more justifiable than the Irish War of Independence?

    As for not replying to the comment, I asked you a question in the post that you’ve just replied to and you have totally ignored it.

    Perhaps you should take your own advice?

  • Saint Etienne

    It’s interesting, that period from the 2nd Boer war onwards. We had, to oversimplify, run out of steam in terms of empire administration. People talk of those years onwards as proof we should never have set out on that journey in the first place. The truth is it was the way of the world at that time and we happened to be very good at it for a period.

    The underwhelming Boer campaign, the longevity of WWI, all functions of a nation under a mixture of political mismanagement and military stagnation. It’s a blunt reflection for sure, but it’s an important distinction to make from the idea that the empire was engineered to slaughter. Like year on year financial projections, the empire was engineered to grow.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ the empire was engineered to grow.’

    Indeed it just ran out of planet and about a billion other earthlings decided that God was’nt an Englishman and the Great White Mother was not so great after all and her relations in Germany and Russia were some of the wackiest emperors since Nero’s time .