Robin Bury Blog – Was 1916 A Good Thing
Well Eibhlin Byrne, Fianna Fáil, Lord Mayor of Dublin from 2009 – 10 thinks so. So do the Irish political establishment and the majority of people Ireland. At the Freedom Day reception on 27 April 2010 in the South African ambassador’s residence in Killiney, Eibhlin compared the fight for “freedom’ by black South Africans to the Irish rebellion in 1916. But were we to take a test on freedoms enjoyed by the Irish people and South Africa blacks before self-government, Ireland would win hands down. Why?
Free press and freedom of assembly – Yes
Control of local government – Yes
Devolved government on statute books - Yes
Free elementary education - Yes
Land in hands of natives - Yes
Universities for natives - Yes
Free press and freedom of assembly - No
Control of local government - No
Devolved government on statute books - No
Free elementary education - No
Land in hands of natives - No
Universities for natives - No
So why 1916? Unlike the U.S.A. more than a century earlier, devolved government, albeit of a limited nature, was on the way Black South Africans had suffered centuries of brutal exploitation (if you doubt me, read Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart, Malan being an establishment Boer), the Irish, well, were taught their experiences were even worser and worser but they weren’t remotely on the same scale. Oh yes, the famine when potatoes rotted year after year and if you are to believe Tim Pat Coogan and Irish-American historians, you would weep at the way THE ENGLISH set out to wipe out the paddies. Liam Kennedy, the Irish historian of Queen’s University, Belfast, tells it as it was, measure after measure were taken to relieve the natural disaster, while Irish Catholic merchants exported grain year after year and grew rich.
What were the consequences of 1916?
• Partition. The division of Ireland was copperfastened.
• The loss of about 6,000 lives in 1916 plus the civil war that followed.
• The formation of an exclusive, narrow and inward looking Ireland.
• A major exodus of the Protestant community,
• No welfare state with free health and secondary/university education as enjoyed by our northern neighbours. Our health care is in decline to-day with limited funding.
• Huge amounts of money wasted in promoting a language no one wanted to speak and very few can speak.
The historian Tom Garvin summed up what motivated Sinn Fein and the IRA to fight British soldiers, Irish policemen and their own civilians to achieve separation.
Sinn Fein’s aims were in a vital sense transformative. The changes it envisaged went beyond the transfer of state power from British to Irish hands, to the vague but potent promise of a radically altered way of life, spiritual regeneration and the rediscovery of the nation’s soul’
This is surely the talk of fascism. What on earth is ‘the nation’s soul’? A pure people? Well, we know what happened. I, as a post nationalist, will be out of the country in 2016 when a man of violence, Patrick Pearse, will be celebrated by our Taoiseach and many others. I will raise a toast to one John Redmond, a constitutional patriot, whose portrait does not hang in Leinster House.