1 April 2015 Edition
Reclaim the vision of 1916
It is a measure of their failure to build an Ireland remotely equal to the Ireland of the visionaries of 1916 that our political leaders have had to descend to a deliberate clouding of the real nature of the Easter Rising
IN 1990, frustrated by official Ireland’s obvious lack of interest in marking the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising, a group of concerned citizens came together to launch ‘Reclaim the Spirit of Easter 1916’, which had the objective of commemorating and celebrating that seminal historical event. For strong personal reasons, I decided to join this initiative.
Over many years I found myself dismayed by an intellectual atmosphere that had developed in the country which appeared to be driven by a kind of self-loathing.
Certainly, as a reaction to the conflict in the North, many Southern politicians and ‘thinkers’ constructed a whole new way of seeing Ireland and the Irish. Everything that could be interpereted as nationalistic was deemed suspect. No more rebel songs or ballads on the radio or television; Irish speakers and GAA supporters were frequently portrayed in a negative light; and anyone who subscribed to a ‘non-revised’ version of Irish history was instantly labelled ‘a Provo fellow-traveller’.
The Stalinist thought-police were everywhere and as soon as the 75th anniversary committee began its work in earnest it was voiciferously attacked by many Establishment figures. For example, Desmond O’Malley, a Government minister, clearly stated his view that “Mister Ballagh’s committee serves the interests of the Provisional IRA.”
• Desmond O'Malley vociferously attacked 'Reclaim the Spirit of 1916'
I have to admit that it was a revealing experience to witness the serried ranks of the Southern Establishment squirm in the face of Irish history.
Yet in spite of all the attempts at furstrating our endevours I am proud to say that the Reclaim the Spirit initiative succeeded admirably in its main objective, and that was to ensure that the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising was celebrated in an appropriate manner. Since that time, almost 25 years ago, many changes have occurred in Ireland, perhaps the most significant being the Peace Process and the subsequent cessation of violence.
Foolishly (and perhaps naively) I had some expectation that since the oft-repeated objection of celebrating 1916 was the risk of giving aid and comfort to the IRA no longer obtained, the Establishment would now become willing to seriously engage with one of the most important events in Irish history. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
Today’s official ambivalence to 1916 seems even more exagerrated than in 1991. And of course the reason is obvious.
It is a measure of their failure to build an Ireland remotely equal to the Ireland of the visionaries of 1916 that our political leaders have had to descend to a deliberate clouding of the real nature of the Rising.
The men and women of 1916 were not merely rebels but people of vision. What they desired was not simply a government in Dublin, a green flag over Dublin Castle and a harp on the coinage. These men and women were calling for a cultural revolution, for a transformation of both public and personal reality.
You will find the outline of that transformation in the Proclamation of the Republic, a remarkable document which called for a sovereign, independent Irish democracy that would have the commond good and the welfare of all its citizens as its guiding principles.
This inspiring vision is why the current incompetent leaders of this failed state are ambivalent about 1916. This is why so many of them fear to speak of Easter week. Certainly the present Government had little to say about the vision of 1916 when it launched its lacklustre programme recently in the GPO. Unbelievably, they produced a promotional video featuring the Queen of England, Ian Paisley, Bono, Bob Geldof and Brian O’Driscoll but no mention whatsoever of the actual men and women of 1916!
• Vision and substance are missing from the Fine Gael/Labour programme
It was such pathetic attitudes that provoked several reluctant but nonetheless concerned citizens to launch a new initiative, ‘Reclaim the Vision of 1916’, to ensure that the centenary of the Rising will be commemorated and celebrated in an appropriate fashion. The vision of 1916 has never been achieved and the people, North and South, are forced to bear the consequences of political, social, economic and cultural failure.
The immoral imposition on the Irish people of a debt recklessly run up by others has resulted in savage attacks on working and living conditions and given rise to feelings of anger and frustration.
The anniversary of 1916 presents us with a unique opportunity to re-examine the ideals and aspirations that inspired the Rising and to apply these guiding principles to today’s challenges.
The citizens’ initiative ‘Reclaim the Vision of 1916’ intends to organise several national events, the main one being a national parade of celebration on Sunday 24 April 2016. This will be a rousing and unfettered celebration of the Rising executed in a colourful, dramatic and musical manner.
The Reclaim the Vision of 1916 intitiative invites all Irish people – at home or in exile – who share our belief that the people should be sovereign to join the struggle to make the vision of 1916 a reality in the lives of all citizens.
» Reclaim the Vision of 1916: A Citizens’ Initiative for 2016, c/o 27 Pearse Street, Dublin 2. For more information email [email protected]