Monday, April 16, 2012

Time for some Irish pride

It is time for my annual post about Ireland's Easter Rebellion. Last weekend I attended the 96th anniversary commemoration of the 1916 Rising on O'Connell Street. I have blogged here before about the Rising and why I believe it was a noble thing In today's post I want to explain why I believe the interpretation of the Rebellion has never been more relevant than it is today. Since the financial Crisis struck in 2008 Ireland has been consumed on every level by self doubt. So much so that many even seem to question whether Independence from Britain was ever a good thing at all. It reminds me somewhat of the place America found itself in post Vietnam and Watergate when many Americans began to wonder if their country was the beacon on the hill that they had been led to believe. In Ireland, this self doubt has manifested itself with the rise of revisionist historians who regularly claim that self government could have been achieved without conflict and that our founding fathers were nationalist zealots. Obviously Ireland and the US have very different roles in the world but I think the comparison is valid as in both cases a profound sense of a need for national re-evaluation descended among the population. In the US, Ronald Regan reminded the American people that the US was essentially a noble and proud nation that is a force for good in the world. It is my hope that Fine Gael under the Leadership of Enda Kenny will do the same in Ireland over the next four years, a time which will include the 100th anniversary of the rebellion.

The Flag of the Irish Republic which was raised over the GPO on Easter Monday is on display today in the Irish parliament.

It is for these reasons that I believe the Irish people need to be reminded of the following. A Home Rule Bill was passed in the British House of Commons in 1914 which had it been enacted would have granted Ireland its own parliament within the United Kingdom similar to that of Scotland or Wales which would have required a permanent acceptance of the Irish people that they are British, not Irish. But let's leave that aside for a moment. I had the good fortune of meeting the late Gareth Fitzgerald a number of years ago and we discussed this issue. The famously moderate former Taoiseach said to me that had Ireland been granted Home Rule in 1914 future independence would have been impossible as our two countries would have become so intertwined on an administrative level that separation would have impractical. But even if you believe that Home Rule could have led to greater freedom and Independence consider the following. It took about 35 years of an excruciatingly slow and difficult political process for Irish Parliamentarians in London to succeed in their efforts to have a Home Rule Bill passed. The British establishment believed that they had the right to rule Ireland directly from London. When the Bill was eventually passed it was suspended due to the outbreak of World War One. So the situation in 1914 was that the Irish people would be granted limited self government, but only if they fought a World War for the British, and assuming that the British were prepared to stand up to Northern loyalists that had imported 200,000 arms from Germany in order to fight to the death to prevent the implementation of Home Rule. And also we must assume that the British were prepared to put down a British Army mutiny in Co Kildare that declared their intention to disobey orders when it came to the implementation of Home Rule. The truth is it is highly unlikely that Ireland would ever have been granted Home Rule. It was at this stage that the brave men and women of 1916 made clear that we do not want to beg on our hands and knees for limited self government in our own country which will probably be reneged on anyway. We want to take it, and we want to take it all. This they were perfectly entitled to do. It is a great example of men of vision giving history a nudge in a direction it was not supposed to go.

The 1916 Rising led to Irish Independence six years later. I am not a stubborn man. If Independence had led to extremism and dictatorship then I would be firmly in the revisionist camp. I suppose the ultimate question with revolutionaries is what do they do with power once they get it. Do they build or do they destroy. The Irish built a strong functioning non sectarian democracy that has lasted the test of time. I often hear revisionists say that the Poverty and emigration of the post independence years would not have happened if we remained within the crown and that the emigration of the 1930's was a terrible indictment of the independence movement. On emigration, yes it was was disastrous but we were a poor nation only 70 years out of famine. It would have been much worse if we were building walls and putting up barbed wire to keep people in. And yes, perhaps the British might have governed Ireland better. Who is to know. What is known is that the part of Ireland that remained under British administration post 1922 was governed in a sectarian fashion where as the 26 county state, flawed as it was was governed by an all inclusive parliamentary democracy and the rule of law backed up by a democratic non sectarian constitution. Ireland is now in its 91st year of democratic rule. We may not have had Nazis and Soviets knocking on our door trying to break down our democratic system but we have had militarists (both pro and anti treaty), fascists, Marxists, Provos and dissidents all hell bent on destroying Irish democracy but they have all failed. Our democratic institutions have held firm for nearly a century and that should be a source of national pride. I don't have much time for Revisionist historians. Most of them are lazy and have an axe to grind. We often debate the state of Israel on Gubu World and sometimes the phrase "self hating Jew" comes up. There exists also the persona of the self hating Irish Catholic.

18 comments:

builder man said...

If sufficient numbers of people wish to govern themselves on their own land (as now poss. in Scotland), then
they have the undisputed right to self determination. Just substitute
Palestinians for Irish and perhaps you will understand why the Israeli occupation, apart from being brutal, is unacceptable in moral terms and International Law. The pro-Israel groups are increasingly being represented by the likes of
Anders Breivik, on trial today. There are no proven direct links but there are indirect links with senior figures in the Israeli Gov.
Michelle Goldberg writes: Anders Breiviks embrace of Israel is the latest sign of a shift among reactionaries in Europe - with fascism and Zionism going hand in hand, fueled by Islamaphobia. The Norweigan approach to terrorism, unlike Israel's collective punishments which serve to perpetuate it, is impressive. What
a wonderful people whose voice is clear. 'We will not betray our values of decency and justice and multiculturism.' There is a special
connection between the UK and Norway, who send us a giant Christmas tree every year to stand in Trafalgar Square as an expression of their thanks for our
support in their fight for freedom
in WW2.

The System Works said...

And the First Weekly Builder Man Award for Trolling and Hi-Jacking a Post goes to...

Builder Man!

Gary said...

Ted: Good post. Very thought provoking.
Builderman: I'm sorry. You really don't have much of a life, do you?

Gary

Ted Leddy said...

Builder Man

As TSW has pointed out you are taking this post in an entirely different direction than was intended. In future please try to stay on topic. I too believe that Palestinians are entitled to self determination. But this does not expand into pushing every Jew into the sea.

The pro Israeli community believe that the Jewish people are entitled to have their own small country in western Palestine. This has nothing to do with that piece of human scum on trial in Norway.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks Gary

Glad you enjoyed it. I have always believed that the Irish revolutionaries of 1916 have much in common with the founders of the USA.

builder man said...

To Gary. I don't think I'd swap my life experiences with you. The leader of our mission shot and killed in front
of us and in the Punjab being put on the hit list of Punjabi seperatists;
meeting the IRA and its supporters in Ireland; Living in Australia (met my
second wife); in France; in Ireland;
in India..etc etc.Now, at 73, busier
than ever supporting freedom in Iran,
Palestine etc. Of course, as I don't know you I could be wrong, but
your posts don't indicate that.

builder man said...

To Ted Leddy.Breivik often posted on an Islamaphobic blog document.no hosted by Zionist Hans Rusted. These
right wing connections to Israel-SETTLER MK'S WELCOME RUSSIAN NEO-NAZI HOLOCAUST DENIERS TO KNESSET @
www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun-olam/2011/07/28/rightest-knesset-members-welcome-russian-neo-nazis-to-knesset/.,give an indication that it is unlikely Breivik acted alone. Where did he get the money from to live without working and to buy a farm? Mysterious large deposits were made into his bank accounts.I think the blogosphere has a duty to exclude all forms of racism, anti-semitism, islamaphobia etc. but it should be self-imposed of course. Your comment about 'pushing the Jews into the sea' sounds somewhat like 'wiping Israel off the map', a translation I disputed on this blog sometime ago.I'm pleased to be vindicated by no less a person than Israel's Deputy Prime Minister @ www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/201204/2012413151613293582.html.

Gary said...

Builderman,

I am very glad you do not want to swap your life experiences with mine -not that I don't have a few that I'd like to get rid of. But, for all the interesting, the good and the bad experiences in our respective lives, they have lead us to become the people we are now -and I prefer to be me in spite of my many shortcomings.

You often say things which are thought provoking and certainly well thought out (even if I rarely agree with you). What irritates me most about you is that you consistently hijack conversations on this blog and change the subject. Ted writes some very interesting items, such as this one about Irish Pride. It is a shame that you feel it is acceptable to start dragging Palestinian issues into it. Are there not blogs devoted to those issues where good discussions came be held?

I also find you very, very close minded about your issues. When you have gotten some people here to debate subjects with you, you seem completely unable to admit any of their legitimate points or to give an inch on your positions. Some would admire that as a sign of conviction -I find it a sign of insecurity -as was this diatribe about your life experiences.... pointless and insecure.

No, Builderman, I don't think I'd be interested in swapping life experiences with you. I am sure yours are interesting and valuable to you and you are welcome to keep them (hopefully to yourself).

Gary said...

Ted,

I am a new comer to the events of 1916 but am trying to learn. I find it very, very interesting. From what have read, I'd have to agree that there are some very real similarities between the American founding fathers and the participants in the Easter Uprising.

I suppose you could find similarities between many of history's "revolutionaries" -but there are some remarkable similarities between the Irish and the American Revolutions and the people involved in them (including the "loyalist" element).

Gary

builder man said...

To Ted Leddy.I think that your conflation of the Irish and American rebellions is somewhat delusional. Of
course I bow to your superior knowledge of Irish history, but I don't remember Michael Collins or DeValera having black slaves or contemplating colonizing large tracts of Africa. Perhaps too many re-runs of 'The Patriot'? Mel Gibson never lets historical fact get in the way of a good story! The
'rebellion' of 1916 might not have led to independence then if it were not for the usual stupidity of the British in executing the ringleaders. But of course you are right that people must choose who is to govern them, so, as with the Scots and the Welsh it would have happened eventually anyway. The Irish (and the Scots and Welsh) have an ancient lineage that was distinct from the Anglo-Normans bent on conquest. But the Americans were BRITISH. But like some British people now who put their wealth offshore, they didn't like paying taxes. And this was a very different reason for rebellion which also included a desire to exploit the Indian lands proscribed
by the British treaties with the Native Americans. This rogue group (only 35% of the colonists) had big
ambitions to exploit the whole continent, a mindset which led to stealing half of Mexico, exterminating the indegenous people and to go around the world exploiting every commercial opportunity disregarding the needs or wishes of their populations and waging brutal wars to obtain their ends - the American Empire. The US Independence movement may have used fine words but they were extremely hypocritical. 'All men are created equal'.Not their black slaves though and they were not averse to shagging the young, good looking ones. They were ruthless too, enforcing a brutal regime against the Loyalists and pre-emptive strikes against the Indians and the blacks. Massacres and war crimes. Early days eh? In Sept. 1776, the FIRST military campaign was a scorched earth brutal attack on Cherokee villages. www.coweenc.com.
Unsurprisingly 85% of blacks sided with the British. And they could not have won without the help of the French, conveniently forgotten by all those Americans who changed the name of chips to 'freedom fries' in the run up to the Iraq War.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_in_the_American_Revolutionary_War.

builder man said...

To Gary. Thank you for the complimentary bits, and the justifiable criticism. I've always thought these posts were meant to be wide ranging.As Chief Seattle (after whom the city in Washington State was named) said: 'All things are connected.' But to please everyone, or those who bother to read them!, I have kept on topic. (I think!)

The System Works said...

builder man: Chief Seattle's famous speech is a phony, written by a Hollywood screenwriter in 1971.

Gary said...

Builderman:
Your letter is offensive. It is a vile collection of lies, half-truths, distortions and historical facts taken completely out of context. To call it pure propaganda would be giving it undeserved credit. I find it hard to believe that you could write such nonsense. If I had any respect for your opinions -this letter has destroyed that.
Gary

builder man said...

On topic again! Is this a record? Anyway I would like to testify that the Irish have much to be proud about. They have a distinctive culture that is recognised around the world. From my own experience they are extremely welcoming (c`ead mi`le f`ailte!) and interested in YOU. Some might say too interested but that is better than the English reserve. Always ready to have a good time and a laugh. When I was awaiting the purchase of my property there, I spent several months in a camping park. As a builder, immediately your job is known, work is offered. One time I was putting in a new sewage outlet for the campsite which required kneeling down to trowel up the discharge point. The owner turned up at that point, so I said to him:'after 800 years at last you have an Englishman on his knees!' I taught his kids to play cricket but I can't claim credit for the resurgence in the national team! Great times. For me, the greatest Irish contribution to the world is the literary legacy going back thousands of years, unfortunately circumscribed by the Catholic Church. My favourite author: Jonathan Swift - a satirist unsurpassed. And, of course, for an old Socialist like me, Ireland's greatest contribution to solidarity and community - The Red Flag -written by Jim Connell in 1889.
'Though coward's flinch and traitor's sneer, we'll keep the red
flag flying here.'

builder man said...

To The System Works.As often happens with legendary figures, words are ascribed to them which they may not have said but which fits the character of the words they DID say. Chief Seattle (1780-1866) was such a legendary figure and must have made an indelible impression on the founders of the city that they named it after him. What matters is the legacy, i.e. of respect for other people's cultures and the environment we all share.

builder man said...

To Gary. If you point out to me my errors, I will happily acknowledge them.

Paul said...

'To Gary. If you point out to me my errors, I will happily acknowledge them.'

Oh that's a simple one you're a cunt and everyone on here thinks so! Ted and Gary are too polite to say so that's all.

Ted Leddy said...

Gary

Kevin O'Higgins (whom I believe you and I have discussed before) was a member of the first revolutionary parliament and the first Minister for Justice in an independent Ireland. He described the Irish revolutionaries as the most conservative revolutionaries since the American founding fathers. Most of his contemporaries, even those on the opposing side of the civil war divide rejected the concept that the freedom stems from the generosity of the state. Sound familiar.

Builder man, obviously liberal Europeans and conservative Americans have little in common. But if I may say so I find left wing hostility to America to be old and boring. Listening to leftists get incredibly bent out of shape because the US has limited national health care or because some states still have the death penalty makes me nauseous. What is the big deal? The US has a different political tradition. Why is this like acid in the mouth for so many people? There are other parts of the world with far more perverse political cultures than the US which completely escape the attention of the left.