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Even more on 1916 – a reprise March 26, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Henry McDonald notes in the Guardian today that Father Seamus Murphy – presented as a leading Irish theologian, albeit he teaches at Loyola University Chicago, has:

…accused the leader of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule of using Catholicism in an unchristian way to attract people to the cause.

As Ireland prepares for the 100th anniversary of the uprising this Easter Sunday, the Jesuit intellectual Father Seamus Murphy has launched a blistering attack on the morality of the revolt and those behind it.

This isn’t the first time he’s done so. In January he wrote a piece in the Irish Times along much the same lines. Unfortunately his critique then was unconvincing and oddly ahistorical for one making such proscriptive statements. Not least with a complete misunderstanding of the rationale for the events of 1916 as noted at the time by deiseach in comments, something Murphy characterised as “the Rising was a shriek of protest at the prospect of constitutional nationalists compromising with unionists”.

One has to hope that he’s sharpened his analysis.

Tellingly McDonald offers us this:

Critics of the current centenary, such as Murphy, believe that uncritical coverage of the Rising’s legacy will enable republican hardliners to argue in the 21st century that there is “unfinished business” over 1916 – Northern Ireland remains within the UK due to its unionist majority.

Such a reductionist view, one that implicitly posits the Irish as gullible and unthinking in regard to both past and present and future is deeply patronising. A pity it isn’t called out more often as such.

Comments»

1. Gearóid - March 26, 2016

As I noted in the previous post I wonder was Murphy influenced by Francis Shaw SJ’s 1972 criticism of the Rising in Studies, which was recently heavily criticised in turn by John M Regan in the special 1916 issue of History Ireland.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

Yeah, and it’s good to see some sort of pushback there.

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Brian Hanley - March 26, 2016

That was Joe Lee writing on Shaw in the recent History Ireland special.

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Gearóid - March 26, 2016

Cheers Brian, that’s right. Had Regan in my head for some reason.

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EWI - March 27, 2016

Regan spoke at the recent Allen conference on 1916 in UCD. The topics included Patsy McGarry, if I remember correctly.

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2. Logan - March 26, 2016

Indeed, which makes MacDonald’s comment that Murphy is “the first major Irish religious figure to launch a blistering attack on the Rising’s legacy” sound a bit off.

And his claim that “some Irish republic-based writers have warned that hardline dissident republicans opposed to the peace process will exploit the commemorations and recruit a new generation of fighters.” is interesting. I haven’t heard of any, unless by writers he means “writers of columns in the Sindo”.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

That’s a great point. There’s something hugely self-referential about the discourse amongst some antagonistic to the Rising which just doesn’t seem to chime with broader attitudes to it.

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3. roddy - March 26, 2016

Both McDonald and Murphy would have form in their links with a party that can’t be criticised .One was a member and the other contributed to their magazine on occasion.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

I’d be surprised if anyone here agreed with their analyses (the last time you raised the connection I for one was deeply critical of what Murphy wrote back in 1989) and in fairness to the WP I don’t think its view of 1916 would be anywhere near the two of them. So if they thought they learned a lesson there it was clearly the wrong one. To be honest I see this strand of thinking on 1916 as one that long predated the emergence of the WP as a specific view, a sort of Irish largely though not exclusively middle class view that the Sindo et al has taken up in more recent times of it as illegitimate etc (now in the 1970s and 80s and after this was elided with the conflict in the North which was shall we say convenient for many). And as Gearoid notes there were religious criticisms as early as 1972 which by the by also predate the WP. Or to put it another way, it’s not all about the WP.

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4. roddy - March 26, 2016

De Rossa when party president is on the record as saying “we will have to have another look at 1916” and I can assure you not in a good way!

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

Never said he didn’t, but don’t you find it odd that someone like myself who actually was in the WP back in the day was and remains deeply critical of that – and again in fairness to the WP PDR upped and left shortly after – and what he said later when in DL in terms of the supposed inability of SF or PIRA to move towards a constructive posture in relation to the peace process etc. In other words there’s no point in smothering everything in the WP special sauce when it isn’t appropriate. Moreover, we are also talking history here, I’m sure you’ll agree that the position of SF has shifted on matters various since 1986 to pick a year at random. So why not accept that the WP doesn’t hold precisely the same positions it did when PDR was President a mere year or two later. Or rather, as I said at the outset that it does not hold a revisionist analysis of 1916.

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Jolly Red Giant - March 26, 2016

Dare anyone look at 1916 and divert from the SF narrative🙂

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Michael Carley - March 27, 2016

Depends. I think people have been arguing about it all since Easter Tuesday 1916, and it would do us all good to remember that arguments about nuances are not arguments about principle.

In other words, Ireland shouldn’t have to apologize for winning its independence, but everything else is up for discussion. So there is a reasonable argument to be had about the SF version of Irish independence from 1919 onwards, as opposed to Connolly’s. But let’s face it, whatever reasonable position you put forward on 1916, there will be people who denounce you. Some of them are just wrong (Redmondites), and most are arguing about nuances.

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WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2016

That’s a useful way of putting it Michael. Can’t disagree.

And isn’t it interesting JRG how that narrative has shifted too across the years as with everyone’s to some extent and in many respects for the better.

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5. roddy - March 26, 2016

One of the few good trends to emerge in Leinster house in the past fifteen years is that the “neounionist” parliamentary left has taken a walloping.From the early 80’s to the mid 90’s they went unchallenged on the left apart from Tony Gregory and Senator Brendan Ryan.Thankfully today the vast majority of those who describe themselves as “left” would have no truck with the two nationism espoused by De Rossa,Kemmy and their ilk.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

Believe it or not I tend to agree – there was some very simplistic and in some cases completely wrongheaded and counterproductive analysis (and that’s putting it mildly) by a range of actors, and just on Gregory as someone who had the genuine privilege to work with and canvass for him you’ll hear no dissent from me on that either. I don’t have heroes and he had his flaws as any who knew him will agree but he was a one off.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

Btw I may be way off here but isn’t Brendan Ryan’s daughter a WP Cllr?

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6. Joe - March 26, 2016

I don’t remember De Rossa saying that but it’s quite possible he did. I do remember various statements by various people at WP conferences that have stayed in my head from those days. One was Garland at (I think) the WP/DL split conference where iirc he excoriated Patterson and the ex BICO group who he said had a big influence on De Rossa. I’ll always remember the example Garland gave of (in his view) the incorrect type of stuff these people were promoting, his demeanour and tone one of contempt and disdain as he said: “1916 should’t have happened”.

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7. CL - March 26, 2016

-In echoes of President Higgins severe critique of neoliberal capitalism in New York late last year, Ms. Higgins said she hoped people would become “inspired” and “enfired” by the heroes of 1916 to meet the challenges of our time.
Speaking at Glasnevin cemetery at the graveside of the heroes of 1916, Ms. Higgins described how “Connolly and Countess Constance Markievicz and others realised there was no hope for the workers unless they could break with [the] empire and they decided to strike for freedom to organise to have a revolution.”…
Now 100 years later in this contemporary and globalised world there is a new form of capitalism,” she said. “And that seeks to undermine democracy itself.”-
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/1916/sabina-higgins-tells-irish-people-beware-of-new-form-of-capitalism-and-the-empires-of-greed-34574712.html

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8. roddy - March 26, 2016

WBS,Brendan Ryan’s daughter is a WP councillor( she was elected as an independent but thats another matter) Brendan Ryan on one occasion summed up the whole thing perfectly when he noted -“the ass fell out of the northern state in 1969”.Apart from Gregory what other “left ” TD would have supported that view in the 80’s.Also they all voted for extradition to Thatchers Britain bar Gregory.Of the 40 odd TDs to the left of labour today,I’ll guarantee you would be pushed to get 3 who would have supported it.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2016

Are we disagreeing with one another? I don’t think we are, anything but. Without question the analyses today are better all round. btw I’d argue the northern state was illegitimate from the off when it was founded, that it hadn’t capacity to represent the entirety of the population within its compass. Its demise was inevitable.

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