31 August 2006 Edition

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Greaves Summer School Important alternative platform

Ruan O'Donnell gave a very informative talk on the 1916 Proclaimation in Context

Perspectives on the Rising


Generally speaking when we think of summer schools we think of the great and the good of establishment Ireland getting together for a congenial chat about how great the Celtic Tiger and the EU are, and "Isn't one side as bad as the other" in the Six Counties.

Therefore it is all the more important to have other platforms to counter that viewpoint and to provide a republican left alternative.

Along with Coiste na nIarchimí's summer school in Mullach Bán, the only school to provide such a forum is that in memory of Desmond Greaves, the socialist historian and biographer of Connolly and Mellows. This year the school - held in Beggars Bush, Baile Átha Cliath - decided that, rather than having a number of completely different themes, it would focus on the overarching theme of the 1916 rising. This worked quite well as judged by the numbers in attendance and shows that there is still plenty of appetite for new and different perspectives on the Rising.

The topics ranged from Representations of 1916, to the effects of 1916 on Empire, through to the Social and Political Ideology of the Rising. Ruan O'Donnell gave a very informative talk on the 1916 Proclamation in Context. He showed that the Proclamation came from Mac Piarais's reading of the relatively little known Proclamation of the Emmet Uprising, but that it was crucially amended by Connolly to make it the radical document that it continues to be today. While the talk did highlight how seminal a document the Proclamation is, it failed to mention that it is the only declaration of independence anywhere in the world that was not issued in the native language of the country, a point made by the writer Tomás Mac Síomóin in his recently published booklet "1916: Leath-Reabhlóid" (Coiscéim 1916).

Other speakers, including Manus O'Riordan, the head of research in SIPTU, highlighted Connolly's international socialist understanding of the importance of an armed uprising against imperialism at such a time as 1916. O'Riordan also highlighted the Southern Government's attempt to create a singular narrative putting the Uprising of Easter 1916 on the same level as the battle of the Somme, which was nothing but a mass slaughter between imperial powers.

While the range of speakers and topics was interesting, the talks themselves were occasionally too loosely linked to the actual title of the lecture, and could have benefited from some initial explanation and summary of what actually was going to be discussed.

Despite these observations, the Desmond Greaves Summer School deserves to be supported for the platform it provides republican socialists of various hues to engage with each other. The School intends to publish this year's papers in the near future. This hopefully will add to the preparations for 2016 and will counter any attempt to create a "parity of esteem" between the progressive radical politics of the 1916 Proclamation and the futile slaughter that was the Somme.

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