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Some useful thoughts on commemoration… April 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History.
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…quoted here from Diarmaid Ferriter who notes in passing that invitations to members of the British royal family have been issued without reference to the expert advisory group on the 1916 centenary and that:

He believed the presence of the royal family might give succour to those who believed the Rising was unnecessary, as the British government had committed to the introduction of home rule once the war was over. “I’m on the side of evidence. There was no evidence that Britain was prepared to settle its Irish question until it was forced to do it. We don’t need to abandon our critical faculties because of the warm haze after the Queen’s visit.”

That point above is one that should be made time and again. It doesn’t precluded the attendance of those current representatives of the British state but it is important to provide a degree of context.

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1. shea - April 15, 2014

glad someone is saying it. there is an odd view that if a couple of lads had not of taken over a post office 100 years ago and stuck to constitutional methods every thing in this country would be great. Its never turned around, if the government of the day and previous governments had of respected Irish mandates to break the union or set up a republic where would we be today. Britain had the guns so Britain made the rules but when paddy picks up a gun he some how uniquely casts a shadow.

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Dr. X - April 16, 2014

“there is an odd view that if a couple of lads had not of taken over a post office 100 years ago and stuck to constitutional methods every thing in this country would be great”

It would have been great for some and not for others. And some think they would have been in the former category.

In reality it’s unlikely that Home Rule would have been a lasting solution to the national question, or to the social questions that stood behind that question.

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2. Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - April 15, 2014

It is worth remembering that the term “constitutional” has no meaning in a political system where there was no constitution. That is even more important when the political relationship between Ireland and Britain at the time remained a colonial one. You can’t be a “constitutionalist” when you are living under a non-constitutional system of colonial occupation. The whole idea is a nonsense.

As for peaceful methods, the cheerleaders for Redmond and Home Rule, etc. forget that before the Easter Rising of 1916 the Irish Parliamentary Party had its own paramilitary wing, the Irish National Volunteers (INV), and its own security wing, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). During the rising members of the INV and AOH actively cooperated with the British Forces, forming armed patrols to aid the RIC and British Army, particularly in the Midlands. Furthermore during the War of Independence some members of the AOH collaborated with the British Occupation Forces in Belfast and Armagh with the connivance of Joe Devlin and IPP leaders.

When Irish voters delivered up three electoral results the British disagreed with (1918, 1920 and 1921) we know what the reaction was. All else is just speculative fantasy. The British were put to the democratic test in Ireland at the start of the 20th century and they failed it – repeatedly.

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CL - April 15, 2014

Give some references for collaboration between AOH and imperialism. The AOH today claims that members of the AOH participated in the insurrection.

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Bob Smiles - April 15, 2014

Sean MacDiarmada was an ex-Hib. American AOH volunteers took part in Rising.

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Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - April 15, 2014

People confuse rival branches of the AOH during the revolutionary period. Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc gives a good summation of all this in his overview of the Hibernian Rifles.

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CL - April 15, 2014

Thanks for that. Excellent piece by O Ruairc.

“During the 1913 lockout the fledgling Hibernian Rifles sided with the workers on strike because the majority of their membership were workers connected to the I.T.G.W.U.”

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Dr.Nightdub - April 15, 2014

There was indeed intense rivalry (which is putting it mildly) between the AOH and IRA in the north during 1918-21. Belfast was the cockpit of course but the border counties saw their fair share of ructions. However, this was related more to a struggle for hegemony within nationalism, rather than collaboration with imperialism. As CL says, you should offer concrete evidence of such collboration.

If and when you do find any such evidence, I’d be interested in hearing how you reconcile it with the fact that, in the north, Devlin and de Valera agreed that SF and the Nationalist Party would form a pact for the 1921 general election, the central plank of which was that both parties would abstain from taking their seats in the new Parlaiment of Northern Ireland.

Devlin continued to sit in Westminster where he was a noted critic of the Craig administration. Again, hardly evidence of “collaboration”.

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CL - April 15, 2014

“The more conservative and sectarian Board or Erin Hibernianism largely disappeared in Ireland with the failure of the Home Rule Party in 1918. Little is known of the Hibernain Rifles group after 1916.

A number of members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians were executed by the IRA on suspicion of being British Spies and the IRA in Belfast found themselves in conflict with armed Hibernians”
(From O Ruairc piece, linked to by S.O Sionnaigh above)
Gerry McGeough clearly has more in common with sectarian Board of Erin Hibernians than with their opponents, the Hibernian Rifles.
Connolly called the AOH ‘the foulest brood to come into Ireland’ yet he was close to the Hibernian Rifles.

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John Dorney - April 16, 2014

Not the AOH per se, but in the Rising of 1916, units of the Redmondite National Volunteers were mobilised to aid the British forces in ‘keeping order’ in counties Galway and Wexford, which had the only mobilisations of note outside of Dublin. While they did not actually exchange fire with the insurgents they most probably would have had the rising in those places been better armed and seen harder fighting.

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Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - April 16, 2014

I’ve always seen the struggle between “Nationalists” and “Republicans” for control of the Irish Volunteers in 1913-14 and the formation of the breakaway Irish National Volunteers by the “Nationalists” as a foreshadowing of the Civil War of 1922-23. The enmity between the IV and INV parallels to some extent the later enmity between the Irish Republican Army and Irish National Army, most obviously in places like Limerick and Wexford. As does indeed the early rivalry between Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party and the later rivalry between the Anti- and Pro-Treaty wings of SF (the latter of which absorbed much of the old IPP structure and membership post-1922).

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John Dorney - April 16, 2014

Yeah there’s some truth in that alright but what’s different in 1922-23 is the existence of hard militarist republicans on the FS side who believed they were doing what they were doing not for commonwealth status but for the independence of all Ireland. (Thinking of Collins, Mulcahy, O’Daly, O’Duffy, MacEoin, Brennan etc etc). Ironically it was these kind of people on the FS side who made the civil war such as vicious business by the pro-Treaty. The Redmondites and neo Redmonites like O’Higgins basically took over after the civil war had been won for them by (if you like) the Collinsites.

But certainly the existence of a large block of conservative ‘constitutional’ nationalists and their antipathy to the republicans was a feature of the period, that culminated in the civil war.

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Brian Hanley - April 16, 2014

I think the organisational transfer between the IPP and Cumann na nGaedheal didn’t happen until much later in the 1920s and early 1930s, when the various National Leagues and Centre Party’s dissolved. Whatever about voters, the core of the Pro-Treaty political and military machines were composed of people who had been through the IRB, 1916 and the war of 1919-21. As John Dorney notes (below or above? don’t know where this comment will end up!) most of the worst atrocities of the Civil War were carried out by people who’d been at the sharp end of the struggle against the British.
On the IPP it’s also useful to note that the party retained a large support among the urban poor in 1918, which by 1922 may have gone to Labour and perhaps later to Fianna Fáil.

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3. Starkadder - April 15, 2014

On a side note, since the Royal Family refused to send any
representatives to the Bicentennial
of the French Revolution, why should they send one to another
commemoration of another anti-monarchist rebellion?

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Michael Carley - April 15, 2014

Was it anti-monarchist? Griffith was in favour of a dual monarchy.

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Justin Moran - April 15, 2014

And had little or nothing to do with the 1916 Rising.

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Michael Carley - April 15, 2014

True enough, but it was Griffith’s party that the 1916 activists joined.

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Jim Monaghan - April 15, 2014

In reality Sinn Fein was just a vehicle for the Republicans. I prefer to call this one the second Sinn Fein Party, the third would be the anti treaty one.

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Michael Carley - April 15, 2014

Splitting a party by joining it: the latest innovation in radical politics.

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Starkadder - April 15, 2014

I was thinking of the 1916 Proclamation’s “We hereby
proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent
State…” Definitely anti-monarchist.

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Dr. X - April 16, 2014

But doesn’t FSL Lyons say somewhere that the 16 leaders considered offering the throne of Ireland to a German prince? (genuine question, I don’t have my copy of Ireland since the famine handy).

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John Goodwillie - April 16, 2014

‘Ireland since the Famine’ says “During occasional lulls in the fighting at the Post Office Desmond FitzGerald talked with both Pearse and Plunkett of what the future might have been, or what it might still be if Germany won the war. He found them both quite ready to envisage the possibility of a German prince – they even named Prince Joachim as a candidate – being installed as king of an independent Ireland.” Sources Irish Times 7 and 15 Apr. 1966 and Memoirs of Desmond FitzGerald.
So, not the 16 leaders. A strategic choice rather than a principled one. As Griffith’s Dual Monarchism was, earlier, a strategic choice for an ex-member of the IRB.
Incidentally, if I remember right, the argument for Prince Joachim was that he didn’t speak English; so he could learn Irish and Irish would spread downwards from the court.

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Michael Carley - April 16, 2014

“the argument for Prince Joachim was that he didn’t speak English; so he could learn Irish and Irish would spread downwards from the court.”

What a combination of cynicism and naivete.

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shea - April 17, 2014

maybe they where taking the piss. Pearse from his writings strikes me as the sarcastic type and Plunkett in the 16 lives book, a hash smoking roller skater.

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Dr. X - April 17, 2014

“What a combination of cynicism and naivete.”

The two go together more often than you’d think. Thanks for the replies, lads.

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workers republic - April 16, 2014

Griffith was opposed to the 1916 rebellion and tried to prevent it happening ( Kathleen Clarke’s autobiography).
George Gilmore in a lecture in Trinity College, spoke of that crucial period after the Rising until the release of the internees from Frongac . George recommended the account by an eyewitness, Dorothy Mac Ardle in The Irish Republic, recounts how at a Sinn Fein public meeting in the Mansion House Count
Plunkett announced that Arthur
Griffith was throwing in his lot with them. Well maybe it wasn’t a
Sinn Fein meeting,Griffith was
leader of Sinn Fein . This was a
crucial moment now a man who wasn’t a Republican, but a dual-
Monarchist . Also Griffith hated Trade Unionism, he called it ‘Larkinism ‘ and had called for British troops to put down a
strike. He supported slavery and
imperialism ( read his
introduction to Mitchells Jail Journal.)

Following the defeat of the
Republicans in the State War and the establishment
of the Free State, the Imperial
Conferences and asked Tim
Healy, former leader of the IPP
and who had usurped Parnell as leader

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workers republic - April 16, 2014

I inadvertently left out that they attended the Imperial Conferences, advised by Tim Healy .
It must be said that they (FS negotiators ) did management to loosen the shackles of Empire, history was on their side ,as Canada and South Africa were becoming more independent minded and the slowly the Empire was becoming the Commonwealth. Today the Commonwealth has no political relevance, Canada is politically and economically closer to the USA than Britain.

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Brian Hanley - April 17, 2014

Griffith regarded himself as a republican and was a former member of the IRB. He thought of the idea of a dual monarchy as a practical way to win popular support to loosen to the bond with Britain, believing that armed rebellions had failed in the past. He despised Britain and the British and his publications were an important part of popularising the idea of independence and the anti-war movement after August 1914. His most important ideas were abstentionism and the need for economic self-sufficiency, which were central to Sinn Féin and remained so well after the Treaty. He did not oppose all trade unions, but like many of his generation of separatists feared and hated Larkin’s general trade unionism and the idea of international workers solidarity. (Sean MacDiarmada felt the same). Because Griffith supported the Treaty (and had reactionary views on race among other things- which were also shared by some of his contemporaries) people tend to write his importance out of the story of 20th century republicanism. He was an central figure. When Sinn Féin was reorganised after 1917 he was vice-president for a reason. You don’t have to like people, or support their ideas to recognise their significance.

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4. roddy - April 15, 2014

Someone should tell super republican and anti SF mouthpiece Gerry McGeough about the disgraceful behaviour of the AOH.He is now trying to pedal the nonsense of AOH involvement in the rising and also canvassing votes for his SDLP sister!

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shea - April 15, 2014

there was a small group of americans in the rising, the hibernian volunteers. Not 100% if they where linked to the aoh maybe the name is a hint, maybe not.

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5. Jim Monaghan - April 15, 2014

Hibernain Rifles, Funded directly by Clan na nGael not the AOH.

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CL - April 15, 2014

Any references?

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Jim Monaghan - April 16, 2014

Wiki entry here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibernian_Rifles my reference was O’Snodaiht senior of the National library

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CL - April 17, 2014

Thanks for that. Connolly had no time for the sectarian nationalism of the AOH, yet worked closely with the HIbernian Rifles. as O Ruairc shows (link above). And Connolly would have been familiar with the AOH in America from his time there. If, as Roddy says, Gerry McGeough is trying to claim that the AOH partcipated in the Rising by citing the Hibernian Rifles involvement he is distorting history.

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6. benmadigan - April 15, 2014

I think the issue of ireland’s relation to England was (is?) more complex than that of former colony. Ireland was undoubtedly exploited as a colony and Irish people were treated disgracefully under British rule. The harshness of that rule undoubtedly fuelled the desire for independence
But unlike other colonies Ireland had members of parliament sitting in Westminster – india, canada and other colonies didn’t. Indeed it was lack of representation that triggered the American revolution.

Which seems to show England considered ireland as one of the “family” – like a younger sibling to be bullied, maybe?
With so many irish immigrants living in England for generations, ireland may well feel like one of the family and her people have certainly made a huge contribution to England’s wealth and well-being.
This might explain the government’s invitation to the centenary celebrations and Queen EII’s rather odd reply saying she’d love to be present.
If my memory is correct I think they wanted to be invited to India’s 50-year celebration a few years ago but India said no – on the grounds that the British Raj had existed for a short period in India’s long history and meant very little to them.Holding india meant a lot to the Uk of course

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Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - April 16, 2014

So interesting points, Ben. The issue of Ireland’s status under British rule is indeed complicated, largely dependent on one’s views of the legitimacy of that rule in the first place (beginning with the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 – which both sides had wildly different interpretations of – and going through the Kingdom of Ireland phase, the Act of Union, etc.). Personally since I regard the Anglo-British presence as illegitimate from the get-go Britain’s legal and constitutional justifications for its rule are entirely spurious and self-serving.

Interestingly the modern British state now recognises that its rule in Ireland was “colonial” in nature (though one suspects they wish that someone had been more scrupulous in proof-reading their legal advice before publicly admitting that). From Scotland analysis: Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland by Command of Her Majesty, February 2013:

“ 26. From 1603, when the Stuart King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, Scotland and England (and its colony Ireland) shared the same monarch.

36. We note that the incorporation of Wales under laws culminating in the Laws in Wales Act 1536 (England) and of Ireland, previously a colony, under the Union with Ireland Act 1801 (GB) and the Act of Union 1800 (Ireland) did not affect state continuity. Despite its similarity to the union of 1707, Scottish and English writers unite in seeing the incorporation of Ireland not as the creation of a new state but as an accretion without any consequences in international law.

…the separation of 26 Irish counties in 1922 to form the Irish Free State, which was treated just as a change in territory rather than a break in the UK’s continuity. There is no indication in the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland of 6 December 1921 that either party questioned the UK’s continuity; on the contrary, it appears to have been premised on the personality of the UK continuing uninterrupted.”

I should also point out that Algeria was treated as part of metropolitan France, a department, but no one regards France’s administrative presence there as anything but colonial in nature.

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Michael Carley - April 16, 2014

If you have access to the London Review of Books, there’s a very good article in the current issue on the UK as greater England, rather than the Great Britain which resulted from the Scottish Act of Union. For example:

Indeed, it is Scottish nationalists who provide a delicious exception to this story of neglect. While most constitutional commentators have largely taken the Union for granted as a mere component within the British constitution, Scottish nationalists have over the years been the staunchest of strict constructionists. They uphold the Union of 1707 – which they otherwise despise – as the binding constitution of the UK and exhibit a terrier-like approach to constitutional anomalies. Robert McIntyre was the SNP’s first MP, elected in the closing stages of the Second World War. It was a custom of the House that MPs could take their seats only after being sponsored by two MPs who presented the newcomer to the Commons, a procedure whose authority depended on a Commons resolution of 23 February 1688. McIntyre refused to accept this cosy Westminster club flummery. The House voted on 17 April 1945 to reject his plea for a dispensation from this requirement. Why, Churchill spluttered, should we give away the ‘customs and traditions of our island which have lasted since 1688’? But what authority – logically at least – inhered in a resolution of the old English Parliament of 23 February 1688, a resolution predating the formation of the new British Parliament in 1707? On 18 April 1945 McIntyre went through the charade of sponsorship, albeit under duress.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/colin-kidd/a-british-bundesrat

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Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn) - April 16, 2014

Excellent, I have a friend I should be able to borrow access off. I know a lot of Scots who have a very strict legal interpretation of the GB Act of Union. Interpretations the British government effectively dismissed with their briefing doc above. PR-wise it was a disaster.

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7. John Goodwillie - April 15, 2014

If it is the purpose of the commemoration of 1916 to show that 1916 was necessary (which seems to be Diarmaid Ferriter’s point), is it the purpose of the commemoration of the Great War, which is currently being concentrated on, to show that the Great War was necessary? Should we participate only in commemorations of what we think were the goodies and ignore commemorations of what we think were the baddies?

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Bob Smiles - April 15, 2014

Yes

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8. Jim Monaghan - April 16, 2014

On a general more we should remember not necessarily glorify. 1916 saved lives by making conscription for a start impossible. We are currently tip toeing in the direction of war between the Russian and EU/USA empires. At least expect lots of military expenditure, tanks not schools on both sides. Stealth bombers this time not dreadnoughts. A bit like 1912 to kick off in 1914. We could say that after the current empires exhaust themselves it will be the time for a new Bolshevik uprising. But given the evidence of the failure to build anything significant in the worst depressions since the 30s, I would not hold my breath.
Minor in all this, will be an explosion of fracking and nuclear given fears on energy security.
I suppose as the crow flies Ukraine is about the same distance as Sarejevo.
Have we learned anything, I doubt it.

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9. Garibaldy - April 17, 2014

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