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Even more on 1916 January 15, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A revealing piece here in the Irish Times earlier in the week by Seamus Murphy, SJ, who ‘teaches philosophy at Loyola University Chicago’. Father Murphy takes a conservative view of 1916. Indeed a profoundly conservative view. Example A?

A real republic is created by voters, is established in structures of representative democracy and the rule of law, and lives in the people’s democratic practices and culture which in Ireland’s case go back to Daniel O’Connell’s mass mobilisation of the people. A group of unrepresentative gunmen can only create a pretend republic.

I should start by saying there’s something in that, at least in the abstract. We know that state building is a deeply difficult process – someone put it to me recently and I think there’s a lot of truth in it, that very few who set out to establish states really seem to understand the scale of the challenge, let alone meet it sufficiently well. And legitimation is no picnic either.

But… a simple examination of the actual history suggests that there was no ‘real Republic’ on offer in 1916 as an alternative to what those who initiated the Rising sought. Quite the opposite. Constitutional nationalism had hurled itself against the rocks of the British polity time and again and seen their much more limited hopes dissipated in the morass of the Home Rule process, a process that as time went on offered less and less.

Britain itself was never going to acquiesce to any such Republic – indeed the limited sovereignty wrested from that source in the aftermath of 1916 and WOI indicates just how antithetical the very notion was to them. And there are other issues to. Unionism itself had just armed, illegally – albeit with the tacit support of the Tories. The British Army was, at the least, conflicted.

And the nature of Britain itself was such that no such Republic could develop internally.

Which makes the certainty of his statements, such as the following, hard to understand:

In its manner of commemorating the Rising, the Government betrays the Republic in its weak, fearful desire to placate the ghosts of 1916.

And there are further contradictions:

First, no other event in Irish history is celebrated in comparable fashion. President Mary McAleese once expressed the hope we would visit our history not to find what divides and scapegoats. but what unites and reconciles. Wasted words, alas: today’s Government elevates an event violently anti-British and intensely anti-unionist.

But this is to ignore the reality that division is intrinsic to different political and national identities. That’s the nature of the exercise. Reconciliation that is one-sided, that merely reifies one identity (British, or Unionist) over all others isn’t reconciliation, it’s an evasion. And there’s a broader point. The event itself while obviously anti-British in the functional political sense of seeking to supplant British rule, was not anti-British in all, perhaps most, other respects (how could it really be otherwise given the tangled but very close relationships between these islands?). Or indeed as such anti-unionist. It did, of course, seek a different political outcome to British rule, but as the history of the two states – both formal and informal – post-partition indicates, a remarkably amicable modus vivendi, all things considered, was arrived at and largely sustained subsequently.

Second, praising the Rising as the defining event in Irish history implies it was justified and is a model for political action. A democratic government speaking thus undermines its own legitimacy.
Third, the excuse often made is that “we must reclaim the Rising from the men of violence”. But the Rising’s leaders were men of violence: the ring of Sauron cannot be turned against its master.

One has to wonder at his seriousness in the first point. The state he resides in currently no more undermines its own legitimacy by celebrating 1776 than the French state does likewise in celebrating the French Revolution.

As to the second one would never think that the European continent was awash with violence or potential violence or the implicit threat of violence – including the quayside at Larne, during this period.

There’s more, but why continue further when it is to see once more arguments that we are all now long familiar with. At this point I know, and so do most of us, the arguments for and against the Rising and most of us, I suspect, have long made up our minds where we stand on it. To me it was justifiable, albeit flawed. The context of profoundly undemocratic British rule and utterly partial representation allied to a bitter history leading to that point is sufficient to make great claims as regards democracy dubious on the side of those who would wish away the Rising. And for those who would find aspects of the legitimation of 1916 problematic it remains difficult to see how this part of the island, or any part of the island, could have shrugged away British rule without those events. Of course there is a strand of thinking that would have preferred that status quo. But the reality of this state – the actuality of its legitimacy as underpinned subsequently by democratic votes and the lack of any oppositional strand within of any force at all once it was relatively well established (and remarkably early at that) implies strongly that that status quo ante mentioned was insufficient and partial, given how it was more or less continually in question, and would always have been unstable had it continued. There’s a lesson there in respect of Northern Ireland and how it is only in the past decade and more that we have seen oppositional strands of any substance dissolve in the face of a somewhat unloved but nonetheless accepted dispensation.

But returning to his thesis, perhaps the bleakest aspects is the narrow reductionism, where the British state in Ireland in 1916 was a – was the – legitimate authority despite enormous democratic and other issues as regards its legitimacy, where every Irish republican or nationalist ultimately being merely a personification of the IRA – though notably the most recent incarnation of that body, every assertion of the history an effective apologia for the IRA.

That’s not the history, those aren’t the only dynamics, where agency is gifted only in part to one strand and ignored in relation to others. 1916 was not 1966 let alone 1976 or 1996 let alone 2016. And while there are historical threads that link each of those it is important to understand them in isolation as well as in context.


1. Dr. X - January 15, 2016

Implicit in this sort of thing is the insinuation that if you don’t fall into line you’re a supporter of the murder of Jean McConville, Garda McCabe and so many others.

And that’s a vicious, and viciously anti-democratic, tactic.

Liked by 2 people

2. deiseach - January 15, 2016

“the Rising was a shriek of protest at the prospect of constitutional nationalists compromising with unionists”

WTF? Seriously. WTF?


3. EWI - January 15, 2016

I presume that this is the very same Father Seamus Murphy, SJ, who was a prominent clerical supporter of the War on Terror (i.e. the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan) using a rather novel interpretation of liberation theology?



EWI - January 15, 2016

Also, didn’t Daniel O’Connell famously shoot and kill a Unionist member of Dublin Corporation in a duel?


EWI - January 15, 2016

That last was in reference to this Murphy claim:

Third, if the Government wants to be “inclusive”, the Garden of Remembrance should also commemorate those who, like O’Connell, worked for Irish freedom but did not shoot anybody.

By far not the worst of this fellow’s claims in the article, but isn’t the Irish Times supposed to be the paper of record?


Starkadder - January 15, 2016
Ed - January 15, 2016

Oh boy. I know all (too much) about the wretched ‘Cruise Missile Left’, Hitchens, Nick Cohen and that whole crew, but I hadn’t come across its clerical wing before.


4. Gearóid - January 15, 2016

“Jesuit Francis Shaw’s article on the Rising was refused publication in 1966; the then-editor Roland Burke Savage SJ considered it too controversial for what was meant to be a commemoration. When it was finally published in 1972, the accompanying editorial by Peter Troydyn SJ described it as a ‘tract for the present troubled time.’ Weighing in with more than 17,000 words – several times the length of usual contributions to Studies – Shaw savaged the account of Irish history mobilised by Pearse and attacked subsequent ‘myths’ that had grown up around the actual events of 1916.” http://www.studiesirishreview.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31&catid=9


5. An Sionnach Fionn - January 15, 2016

“…violently anti-British and intensely anti-unionist”

It was the beginning of a counter-colonial, national liberation struggle which was opposed by violent British and unionist forces. So of course it was, by definition, anti-British and -unionist. Apologist twat!


6. makedoanmend - January 15, 2016

I think the good cleryman should keep his opinions for ecumenical matters.

Fr. Dougal had a better grasp of reality than this tosser.


7. roddy - January 15, 2016

I have a feeling I have read something by this chancer regarding republicans of more modern times (even more strident).I also think it was in a publication associated with a certain political party that I am only allowed to mention once a month or face a banning!


Joe - January 15, 2016

Poor Roddy. You are the CLR MOPE – most oppressed poster ever!


8. roddy - January 15, 2016

Joe,you could’nt recall by any chance what publication an sagart Murphy was invited to contribute to?


Joe - January 15, 2016

Sorry Roddy no. And I’m not covering up! Never heard of the chap till now. Was it a ‘paper’ or a ‘magazine’? Presumably the latter. If so, then maybe Workers Life or Making Sense.
That’s if your feeling is correct in the first place of course.


9. CL - January 15, 2016

Whatever you say don’t mention the empire.

Liked by 1 person

10. gendjinn - January 15, 2016

Lived in Chicago in the 90s. Great city with a large number of Irish immigrants going back generations. Enough that it’s got it’s own ersatz version of the homeland politics, same dynamics, same debates, same truths and errors.

This cleric is no different than a hundred others we’ve encountered in Ireland in our very own lives. The same critiques enumerated here are echoed by the diaspora in Chicago. Even if he were the only anti-Republican cleric in the world, he’d still be the only one given space in the IT or INM.

Liked by 1 person

EWI - January 16, 2016

Based on the past two weeks, is the Irish Times going to be publishing deliberately inflammatory anti-1916 Rising pieces week after week all year? Because this is the sort of thing that really ought to result in someone organising a public boycott…


WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2016

Too few people read it to make it worthwhile I’d have thought, though two such unnuanced pieces in two weeks is ridiculous and if there’s a third next week…


eamonncork - January 16, 2016

A boycott? What would you call it, Section 32?
I’d be inclined to think the most damaging thing you could to articles like this is read them. They are in all their shabby intellectually underpowered glory powerful arguments argument against the cause they espouse. Presuming that other people less smart than you are will be taken in by them is veering a bit close to ‘sheeple’ territory.


11. CL - January 15, 2016

Father Hardon, S.J., the concupiscence expert, often praised in the late, much lamented ‘The Hibernian’, was also based in Chicago.


Starkadder - January 16, 2016

This fellow?


Call me juvenile if you like, but I think “Hardon” is an unfortunate surname for a man of the cloth…..


WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2016

I didn’t want to draw attention to it.


12. roddy - January 15, 2016

Joe ,as the years roll on my memory has started to fade but when I saw the name and the tone and general points made,alarm bells started ringing.I think it was “workers life”.


Joe - January 15, 2016

And was Workers Life easily got in sth Derry back in those days?


13. roddy - January 15, 2016

Saw the article on the net Joe and I can tell you my “west Brit” detector rarely lets me down.


WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2016

Any chance you could find that edition roddy?

Have you checked out his Bio on the university page? Oh he’s a character. 😦 http://www.luc.edu/philosophy/faculty_murphy.shtml


WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2016

In fairness though I’m not sure he’s necessarily a West Brit – or at least not as I understand the term. According to one publication he worked as priest with rent-controlled tenants in the early 80s and then later on unemployment and health care and so on.


Obviously I disagree fundamentally with his views on the Rising and indeed Republicanism (and I think almost all of us here would also disagree with his views) and reading the above he seems to be far too prone to collapsing categories that most of us would think were demanding a lot more nuance (for example he makes what to me is a very simplistic point about IRA and Mafia ‘murderous terrorism’ which completely evades addressing much more difficult and contradictory issues). He also writes ‘take political terrorism. For the Irish Catholic it is an equally evil state of affairs in Northern Ireland that Catholics are murdered as that Protestants are murdered: so says the ethic of outcome. But the actions that lead to such murders cannot be of equal moral significance for the Catholic; he must take the action of murder by Catholics (the IRA) more seriously, since those actions originate from his community and kinsfolk. There is a moral obligation to first tackle the evils that originate from one’s own national or ethnic group’ That strikes me as almost childishly simplistic – ignoring structural problems that give rise to armed struggle, the difficulty in pushing back against certain forms of activity in deeply polarised societies, etc, etc.

But it’s not all bad – he notes for example that ‘Structured forms of discrimination against … NI’s Catholic community have been greatly reduced but this does not prevent persons from continuing to act in discriminatory ways that are often seriously unjust’.

You’re right though Roddy – he did write in a WP publication, http://www.clririshleftarchive.org/document/1258/

Making Sense No. 6 Jan 1989, pp 6-7. Frankly an absurd piece, not least his call for “southerners” to ‘support the security forces in NI’ (one wonders how he explains away the disbandment of the RUC and other ‘security’ forces?). And as the Left Archive notes:

“He then suggests that were the IRA to ‘achieve a united Ireland’ it is his suspicion that most in the south would abhor the means but accept the end, even if ‘it were built on the slaughter and expulsion of thousands of the Protestant community’. From this he argues that ‘What might in the long run make a difference would be a repudiation of its goal as well as its method; if the southern community is not to be complicit in the IRA campaign, it must build a wide consensus around the position that a united Ireland attained the IRA way could never be acceptable. ”

Completely delusory, impossible and weirdly blaming people for thing that they did not support (i.e. slaughter and expulsion of Protestants’) and demanding that somehow they do x in order to ‘prove’ they didn’t support it.



Aonrud ⚘ - January 15, 2016
Aonrud ⚘ - January 15, 2016

Oops, simultaneous posting. And to be fair, rather more detail from Wbs 🙂


14. roddy - January 15, 2016

Phew,I’m glad somebody found the offending article.I had started to think I was delusional!


WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2016

Fair dues for reading stuff in the archive. I’d completely forgotten that article even though it is one of the most irritating I’ve ever read. Perhaps that’s why I forgot it!


15. Séamus - January 16, 2016

Sir, – Fr Seamus Murphy SJ claims that the 1916 Rising, which the State is currently celebrating as a decisive event in the achievement of national independence, did not meet the criteria of “just war” and therefore should be roundly condemned by current leaders of the Republic (“Government betrays the Republic in desire to placate the ghosts of 1916”, Rite & Reason, January 12th).

But Fr Murphy’s notions of “just war” are very strange indeed.

In 2003 he claimed to be applying the same theology of liberation when he publicly endorsed the US-UK invasion of Iraq, which, apparently unlike the 1916 Rising, fully met the criteria of “just war”. He wrote: “The people of Iraq want peace and an end of oppression. They want neither Saddam nor war. But given Saddam’s addiction to war . . . he is likely, if left in power, to provoke more wars. That, coupled with the oppression and terror, far outweighs the burden of the US/UK invasion. At worst, the US/UK invasion is the lesser evil, at best a liberation.” (“Liberation Theology and the Iraq War”, The Irish Catholic, September 25th, 2003).

Following the achievement of independence, the people of the Irish State enjoyed 93 continuous years of peace. Following the US-UK invasion of Iraq, that country has experienced over a decade of the most horrendous warfare and destruction.

We should be grateful to Fr Murphy for revealing to us the faulty criteria not so much of liberation theology but of latter-day Jesuitical casuistry. – Yours, etc,

Dublin 13.


Liked by 1 person

Starkadder - January 16, 2016

“the people of the Irish State enjoyed 93 continuous years of peace…”

Would you describe an event like the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as part of any set of “continuous years of peace”? Because personally, I wouldn’t.


16. roddy - January 16, 2016

Eamon ,a boycott of the Irish Times by SF supporters up here would result in a drop in circulation of about 10……., sorry 10 in total.


WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2016

Well, it wouldn’t just be by SF supporters would it? 😉 So perhaps a few more. But I think EC has a point.


17. roddy - January 16, 2016

SF supporters would be from the same demographic as most of the left in the south.


WorldbyStorm - January 16, 2016

I would agree completely. I was being too literal minded.


18. CL - January 16, 2016

“That half centenary – 1966 – is… sometimes blamed for, the Troubles that followed….
Seán Ó Riada.. in 1966..was a cultural colossus..

The Lemass plan for 1966 was to celebrate the modernisation of Ireland….
But..Mise Éire..became overture, prelude and reveille to the golden jubilee…
Ó Riada told the Irish narrative. But the idea it organised through sound… was sex. A majestic sexual sweep from the droit de seigneurial compromise to the unfettered glory of the risen people..

his republicanism was classical and embracing…
He was at one with his great friend John B Keane, who saw all humanity pass beneath his window in Listowel…
In terrible revolutionary fall-out, his music was being expropriated by a republicanism so toxic those who loved it feared for the association. The epic clash of cymbals had become a clash of symbols.”



19. Brian Hanley - January 16, 2016

The Irish Independent has a 1916 supplement with analysis by Tim Pat Coogan in today’s edition.


Joe - January 16, 2016

C’mon Brian, get off the fence. How good is TP’s analysis?


Brian Hanley - January 17, 2016

I was merely reporting the existence of a separate newspaper, which is actually read by more people than the Irish Times, to the CLR Joe. It’s interesting how they try to contextualise the infamous editorial. Tim Pat’s stuff is terrible, as usual.


Dr.Nightdub - January 17, 2016

Her nibs bought a copy of today’s Indo thinking it had a freebie of “The Revolution Papers” that I might be interested in. The thing that struck me most about the facsimile copy of the first post-Rising edition of the 1916 Indo that it actually contained was how tiny the print was.
Started reading TPC’s piece but gave up half way through when he started drawing analogies with current political issues.
Interestingly, I saw a report online that compared officially audited sales of his book versus those of Ferriter’s “A Nation Not A Rabble”: Coogan won hands down. Depressing.


20. roddy - January 16, 2016

O’riada’s family would hardly agree with this attempt to use him as a put down to modern Republicanism.The troubles were at a very early stage when O’Riada died and if you watch the video of Liadh O’Riada’s election victory you will see most of Sean’s family and many of his musical associates celebrating her stunning success.


Jim Monaghan - January 17, 2016
21. CL - January 16, 2016

“Imagine the British authorities erecting a plaque of the Cenotaph in London to honour those gallant members of the Luftwaffe who perished on bombing raids of London during World War II.”
-Robert Ballagh.


Alibaba - January 17, 2016

Now we have it. Tim Pat Coogan tells us about his latest book, ‘1916 The Mornings After’: “Following on from my last blog the launch of my current book which I mentioned, was a great success. The booksellers Easons put on quite a generous supply of edibles and wine therewith and what might be termed a large and representative gathering of friends, relations and hangers on generally turned up to add lustre to the occasion.”

So mired in self regard and self promotion; so lacking in credibility. An author well used to publicity stunts to win attention for himself and his terrible books, that is, terrible in the sense of content, research and writing. I have to say Robert Ballagh got it wrong when he praised this book.


22. roddy - January 17, 2016

Tim Pat may be many things but one thing for sure ,you’ll never see him take the “irish times” line on 1916 .


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