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1916 and after March 29, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’ve got to admit I share some of the unease expressed by rockroots here in relation to the prominence at commemorations of descendants of those who fought in 1916. One doesn’t want to be churlish or unfair, but it does seem odd in the context of an explicitly republican rising to see what feels – fairly or unfairly, somewhat inegalitarian. This is not to deny the right to particular pride in the achievements of those one might be related to.

That said one relative, Frank Shouldice, writing in the SBP makes a range of useful points about the Rising and some of what it was like for those who fought during 1916 and then afterwards when for all the rhetoric about the events the reality was one of some marginalisation.

Two things stand out in particular. Firstly a point he makes about how…

Much of the current discussion re-examines what gave these 1916 revolutionaries the right to proclaim independence on behalf of the Irish people. The empirical bar to such an unanswerable question is indeed high, although the ‘right’ of a colonial power to maintain the status quo by force somehow escapes such philosophical scrutiny.

And on another aspect…

The executions at Kilmainham and other repressive measures meant that within two months, batches of Irish prisoners were cheered off at Dublin port.

And this I find very compelling:

Such a dramatic turnaround did not reassure the prisoners already locked away in British jails; rather it exposed the volatility of public sentiment. Wary of its fickle potential, it’s something many veterans, including my grandfather, decided they could live without.

Comments»

1. CL - March 29, 2016

President Higgins said that the republic for which Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army hoped remained unfulfilled…
James Connolly was acutely aware that there existed in Ireland… a class of native predators, a very wealthy class of industrialists and graziers, some of whom were nationalists, who wanted to preserve the economic and social status quo.
The President said the ambition of those who joined the Irish Citizen Army was not confined to replacing an alien landlord class with a native one, or replacing one form of conservative nationalism with another.
“Their objective was to transform Ireland’s social, economic and cultural, as well as political, hierarchies. But their radical ideas of redistribution were staunchly opposed by many nationalists, as well as by the Catholic hierarchy and Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin….
The Proclamation was read by Sgt James Pearse, a great-grandson of James Connolly.
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/ideals-of-those-who-fought-in-1916-rising-still-not-achieved-says-higgins-1.2591117

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2. Alibaba - March 29, 2016

I was impressed by the unease expressed by rockroots about the prominence at commemorations of descendants. So well put. Then I remembered a descendant who is related to me and who secured an invitation to such an event. She attended the State Ceremonial event in Ashbourne, Co Meath. Was delighted to see an enactment of the local battles and happy to get a goodie bag with a professionally produced explanatory document, a sandwich, a banana, a bottle of water and a raincoat contained in a plastic ball.

Not impressed to see Joan Burton speak at length. I am told that she said “James Connolly was the leader of the Labour Party, as I am myself.” Burton’s speech was greeted with a stony silence.

My elderly relative has some historical documents at home, including the leaflet handed out at Thomas Ashe’s funeral. She was so moved by the event, she has decided to hand them over to the relevant museum. So descendant involvement matters, as long as it is done in a considered way.

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CMK - March 29, 2016

I heard there were ructions at the Ashbourne commemoration where long standing republicans, who mark the battle every year, were prevented by the private security company hired to police the event, from accessing the main ceremony.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2016

Interesting, CMK.

Alibaba, that’s a very persuasive way of putting it. As I was saying down thread, this isn’t raised to be exclusionary, I think there is a place and a role.

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3. benmadigan - March 29, 2016

we can’t thank or involve the original patriot dead so we thank and involve their descendants – who may be ordinary men and women in the street or famous in their own right or somewhere in-between

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4. 1798Mike - March 29, 2016

Difficult to avoid involving the descendants . However a huge array of the well-placed and well-connected attended some events, the result being that there were few places available for the ordinary, interested citizens – as I found out!

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benmadigan - March 29, 2016

1916 descendants are one thing – the well-placed, well-heeled and well-connected are another!!

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5. Noreen Byrne - March 29, 2016

I find this constant intellectualising about the 1916 relatives rather annoying. As a relative of an Irish Citizen Army volunteer and a left feminist activist all my life, I’m very clear that this is the first time in my memory that relatives have been properly acknowledged, nothing more nothing less, is that not a good thing ? God or whomever your higher power is preserve us from begrudgers. I have no problem with opinions but some of us had family members killed, while others spent their lives in poverty. Is it necessary to point out that respect is a moral principle shared by all sides?

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2016

In fairness there’s no constant intellectualising on this site – first time it’s been mentioned, and I’ve seen no comment elsewhere, at least not in mainstream media. Also, both rockroots and myself were careful not to suggest that there’s no place for relatives and to point to the justifiable pride that people can take.

As it happens I’ve relatives from the WOI who were active in Cork one of who was captured and imprisoned and threatened with death which was averted only by the fact that negotiations with the British superseded all else. I’m also proud that they were involved, and admire their courage so I do get the very real sense of connection. On my partners side her grandfather was a republican in the civil war who was on hunger strike – something that shattered his health and contributed to an early death.

I’d hope that their contributions are acknowledged (and in relation to relatives as alibaba puts it in a considered way) but I’m uncertain as to more than that, that’s really my base line in all this.

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EWI - March 29, 2016

One thing that shines through in the accounts and records of 1916 and thereafter, is the role of families, which appears to be a peculiarity which arises when you’re fighting the enemy on your home turf, generation after generation.

Very many of those involved were from families which were into second, third or fourth generations of republicanism or just radicalism. Very many of those involved were related to others also involved. I have no problem with the continuing of those family traditions.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2016

That’s an interesting point re continuity and traditions. My own father’s family after the WOI tended to CnaG but he himself joined SF in the 1950s as a very young man so there’s a sense of the republicanism at one point strong fading in one generation before reasserting itself subsequently and on in a different form to this day I’d like to think. My partners family remained republican though left republican might be a better definition – perhaps understandably.

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benmadigan - March 29, 2016

also in the “troubles” NI many families were republican for generations (see gerry Adams/Mairia Cahill family backgrounds). Would be interesting to understand why. It must go beyond “keep her lit”, oral transmission, solidariety with imprisoned family members etc.

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EWI - March 29, 2016

Take the Bolands, who weren’t all that unusual in 1916:

My three brothers, Gerald, Harry and Edmund, were, as long as I remember, associated with people connected with the national movement. They were all members of the I.R.B. Of course, neither I nor my mother knew that until long afterwards, in fact, not until the two elder ones were in prison after the Rising.

My father’s father and his brothers, who lived in Manchester, took part in the affair of the prison van which rescued the prisoners in Hyde Road district. The family must have emigrated to Lancashire the time of the famine, and my father and his brothers probably were born in Roscommon and brought to Manchester as very small children. My mother was born in Manchester also of Irish parents. Her people her father was Philip Woods came from Carlingford. An ancestor of hers Woods also who was a blacksmith by trade was dragged at the back of a cart and whipped through the streets of the town for making pikes for the rebels. That musty have been the period of the 1798 rising.

My father was only a small boy at the time of the episode of the prison van but he was used as a scout on that occasion. My mother remembered hearing all about it very well, and often talked of it. Colonel Kelly, who came from America to assist the Fenians, was a relation of my father’s people on his mother’s side she came from Galway and a relative in Galway, called Mullins, told the whole story to my brother, Gerald.

Kathleen Boland, BMH Witness Statement 586

Kathleen married Seán O’Donovan, brother of Con O’Donovan, I would say reinforcing the point. The family were of course targeted by the DMP’s ‘G’ Division, Dublin Castle’s secret police, after the Rising with their landlord being pressured to evict them. Later on, the Boland family were refused parole (by Kevin O’Higgins) for Gerry to visit the dying Harry in hospital. We all know the subsequent Boland family involvement in Fianna Fáil up until the Seventies/

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Brian Hanley - March 30, 2016

There’s interesting connections with Phibsborough and the Boland’s as well.
But just looking at that family, Gerry left the IRB after 1916 arguing that their conspiratorial nature caused problems, while Harry became central to the organisation.
Gerry became Minister for Justice in 1936 promising that having smashed the Blueshirts the government were now going to smash ‘the others’- the IRA. During the 40s he presided over the execution, of among others, a 1916 veteran. Kevin was in the government that introduced internment in 1957, a measure he fully supported and was notably hardline in his dealings with housing protesters and other activists in the late 1960s. So surely it’s what you do, not what your name is or what your ancestors did, however noble that might be.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

That’s in a way what I’m getting at above re the WOI. I have no real connection to those events myself, I can’t, I wasn’t there and nor am I the person who was – it is purely an accident of birth that I have a link at all. I’m proud of what was done but it’s a bit like my father – in the end he became I’d think a sort of FF Haughey vaguely social democratic softish republican. I’m not as happy about that which of course was the period I knew him as i am of the earlier radicalism of his in relation to SF in the 50s and early 60s (albeit SF at the time was not exact preaching red revolution) and I can’t as an individual take any credit for either. I think I persuaded him or more likely simply because i was a member made him give higher prefs to the WP but that’s about it (and I’m.sure many here wouldn’t count that as an achievement!). Still I do admire him for going against the grain in the 50s so as i said above I do entirely understand the rightful pride people have.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

But just looking at that family, Gerry left the IRB after 1916 arguing that their conspiratorial nature caused problems, while Harry became central to the organisation.

There’s a story there to be told of some veterans’ rejection of the I.R.B. after 1916, as to why that was, but Owen McGee was the only one that I’ve noticed really examining the organisation in recent times and he’s in the professional wilderness. My own feeling is that this apparent lack of interest has to do with not touching the live hand grenade that is the subject of Collins’ takeover of the I.R.B. (and particularly his use of it to get enough of the I.R.A. over to the pro-Treaty side to form the nucleus and loyal officer corps of the National Army). Collins seems to me to be a paper figure when it comes to his modern re-invention as a democratic politician.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

So surely it’s what you do, not what your name is or what your ancestors did, however noble that might be.

Well, I’m in the position of being someone who would have been ‘genetic Fianna Fáil’, but detests the whole lot of de Valeras (never mind many of the others). That’s concerning events and politics subsequent to the period in question, though.

But I would argue that my point stands, that it’s not generally appreciated as to the extent it was families (rather than individuals) who formed the backbone down through the years we’re talking about. And I would be interested to know how many of the concerned letter-writers to the papers on this issue were members of party political branches who happily nominate political candidates based on said candidates’ family.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

Even if that is correct and i can think if instances for and against family involvement it still rests with the individual rather than he family in regard to what choices they make. We can’t predict from family how individuals will turn out and even were we to find that there was a greater preponderance of those involved from families that should still make absolutely no difference to how we treat people given that the a republic is based on the basic unit of the citizen.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

that should still make absolutely no difference to how we treat people given that the a republic is based on the basic unit of the citizen.

I would think that the average citizen of this Republic would disagree and rather have the relatives at the ceremonies rather than ostentatiously empty seats for the likes of, say, John Bruton or Ivan Yates.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

But that’s not the issue, no one is counterposing relatives against Bruton et al. Anyone who refuses the invitation to attend without rsvping can easily be dealt with by not extending an invitation to any other related events. And let me reiterate I’m not saying exclude people because they’re relatives but what I am saying is that citizens of a republic should be treated equally. Its a basic principle of republicanism. One other thing, the Irish people aren’t spectators at events, or they shouldn’t be, they’re what this is about fundamentally, not those who fought, not those who came after, etc, but the actual citizens of a fairly free republic. That’s who Pearse et am fought on behalf so that those citizens would live in a society where they were individually and collectively equal an that’s why we should naturally and correctly commemorate those who fought but keep our focus on those who are now citizens and their present and future.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

And let me reiterate I’m not saying exclude people because they’re relatives but what I am saying is that citizens of a republic should be treated equally. Its a basic principle of republicanism.

It’s a fallacy to say that this means that no citizens can be honoured above others for their contribution. It’s important to note that the invitees to O’Connell Street on Sunday were politicians, state office-holders, various trade unionists and all the rest, *and a representative of each family*. I would have preferred, along with everyone else, that the public were allowed to be there on this occasion as well as others like Glasnevin last year, but this was stage-managed for political advantage (and like I say, aimed squarely at the various SF/IRA bodies). I’m happy to see that the relatives have been active in properly commemorating the events of a hundred years ago, when the likes of Humphreys clearly know little and care less.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

Well that’s a whole different issue as regards honours, ctizens can be honoured – though I once heard someone who was close to the Chris Hudson school of thought bemoaning the lack of an honours system here, something I tend to think is a good thing in the main, but honoured for what they themselves have done.

Just on the central issue I can’t help thinking you’re putting the political fact that relatives mostly are pro-16 ahead of the underlying principles. And its not a given that they or any group of relatives would necessarily have a similar political line to you (or in this instance me too). That’s no reflection on them, people hold many different views, wait until we hit the WOI and/or the civil war and then we’ll likely see some interesting divisions. And in a way M McDowell is illustrative of much if this – sound as a pound in 16, on other issues not so much.

Can’t disagree re Humphreys, her contribution appears particularly inappropriate.

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6. gendjinn - March 29, 2016

And yet it’s eternally human. Is it possible for a sentient species that has arisen through evolution to construct a just and fair society?

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7. Brian Hanley - March 29, 2016

What about Liam Cosgrave then. He’s a 1916 relative, his father and uncle were ‘out’, his father was sentenced to death. Should he be accorded special status? Or should only relatives who are republican or left-wing in their views be listened to? What about the relatives of the four lads who fought in the Rising and then joined the British Army? Or the relatives of the Irish Volunteer who shot Peadar Macken dead in the Clarence Street Dispensery and was then shot himself? Or the relatives of the 1916 veterans who went on to do horrible things in the Civil War?
This isn’t like the Hillsborough or Stardust relatives who are trying to right a wrong done to people who they knew; its about special status for people lucky enough to be related to 1916 rebels. Fair enough, it means a lot to people but nobody accords the relatives of the 20,000 or so locked workers in 1913 much attention do they?

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EWI - March 29, 2016

What about Liam Cosgrave then. He’s a 1916 relative, his father and uncle were ‘out’, his father was sentenced to death. Should he be accorded special status?

He is accorded special status. He has been prominent at a number of related events during this FG-LAB government’s lifetime. I have no problem with the families stepping in to defend the memory and ideals of their relatives, in a situation where the main Irish political parties as well as the permanent government bureaucracy are clearly doing their best to bury the whole thing.

And this is just a repeat of three years ago and the Lockout commemorations, that I can see. The interventions of the families were welcome then, too.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

Again interventions and stepping in to defend memories are laudable and understandable but that’s not necessary the same as what was raised in the original post. For example dissent with the official commemorations isn’t evident if people participate in them, and on a slight tangent while I’m also sceptical about aspects of those commemorations I’m not certain that it’s self evident that the establishment seeks to bury it all particularly after the weekend. I’m directly involved in a number of orgs both local and national and their commemoration of 1916 and while I’d be very critical of aspects of funding in truth those orgs have been left to get on with presenting matters as they see fit and the commemorative events and exhibitions will continue on for months to come. That’s not to say that there’s no shaping of the narrative or wish to do same but there’s enough going on that its not a simple monolithic relationship.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

For example dissent with the official commemorations isn’t evident if people participate in them and on a slight tangent while I’m also sceptical about aspects of those commemorations I’m not certain that it’s self evident that the establishment seeks to bury it all particularly after the weekend. I’m directly involved in a number of orgs both local and national and their commemoration of 1916 and while I’d be very critical of aspects of funding in truth those orgs have been left to get on with presenting matters as they see fit and the commemorative events and exhibitions will continue on for months to come. That’s not to say that there’s no shaping of the narrative or wish to do same but there’s enough going on that its not a simple monolithic relationship.

I don’t believe that to be true at all, and I have very good reason to do so (apart from what’s in the public knowledge such as the Moore St. campaign and elements of what’s been going on with ‘Ireland 2016’). But that’s a conversation that I can’t and won’t get into on a public forum, for my own reasons.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

Well in all fairness I’ve noted there is space for exception but I am in contact with a broad range of people quite apart from my direct involvement noted above in one national institution and local groups and while I’m certain mileage may vary the idea that there’s a single special sauce seems unlikely. In regard to which I also have to contest the idea that its a simple reductionist top down process. There are clear problems with Moore St and ive noted issues re funding but more broadly people I interact with are in the main happy and dont feel corralled by Ireland 1916. One other point also speaking to a wide variety of people on the left and republicans since the weekend the sense was that bar Humphreys the commemorations were broadly good.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

and on a slight tangent while I’m also sceptical about aspects of those commemorations I’m not certain that it’s self evident that the establishment seeks to bury it all particularly after the weekend.

This, however, I would have assumed was obvious to see after last year’s O’Donovan Rossa fiasco. Nothing official was going to happen to mark the occasion until the Shinners announced their intention to do so. After that, it was a hurry to organise the same show as Sunday, all about upstaging anything continuing to call itself ‘Sinn Féin’ or the ‘IRA’. And that’s the real theme of the FG-LAB government’s 1916 commemorations.

By the way, I see that cinema goers are currently getting a nostalgia trip back to that execrable first official government 1916 video. Bono and the Queen are back, though Padraig Pearse does get a sad animated bowing of the head into it this time.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

I think it would politically and in every way have been next to impossible not to have marked Easter 1916. And again the institution I mentioned above had plans for years in the mix. In other words something would have been done – there’d just been too much pressure from FF etc. I also think it’s not just about SF. There’s a much broader sentiment in favour of 1916 than SF even if it’s sometimes a bit submerged.

Though once again +1 re the video stuff. That’s for RTÉ isn’t it? Absolutely ridiculous visuals. Went to see Zootropolis and it was there as well. Warping the minds of kids as well as adults!

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EWI - March 29, 2016

And I would think that four is probably a conservative number. Take Tim Finn, I.R.B. member and a Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade, Irish Volunteers:

He was very much upset at not having played a more active part in the Rising. He bitterly reproached. himself for not having marched at the appointed time without Brady, with having waited so long and with not having made a more determined effort to contact his battalion when he got to the city.. It was useless to point out to him how unreasonable and how unjust to himself was all this self-reproach. As the weeks passed he brooded on this until one evening, in what may well have been a fit of refreshed despondency, he re-enlisted, in the British army Not many months afterwards we learned of his death on the Western Front.

Valentine Jackson, BMH Witness Statement 409

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Brian Hanley - March 30, 2016

That’s an interesting one. The four lads I mentioned were lucky enough to all come back, amazingly.

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EWI - March 30, 2016

Val Jackson has one of the more remarkable statements (and that’s happily just a relative term), with his presence as a witness at many of the right places up until the Civil War. Many similar personal stories of the period are there, it’s just going to take people years I think to get through all of the material released and find most of the gems. It’s a great complaint to have, but there’s simply too much and too few people researching through it and publishing.

And not just the BMH statements – the MSPC files can contain some incredible hidden documents and letters. One thing that would be welcome (other than the hope that Google or someone will OCR the MSPC records) would be searchable metadata showing the web of references for different award periods (and improving or replacing that web server software that they’re using).

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8. roddy - March 30, 2016

In this area a man was hanged in 1798 and his descendants still live in the area and bear the same name.Every generation of this family has at least one member called for the rebel and everyone finds it highly appropriate for that namesake to be called forward to lay a wreath at his monument.

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WorldbyStorm - March 30, 2016

Its a fine balance of necessary inclusion without reification.

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9. shea - April 1, 2016

in relation to moore st some of the families made good politics. Get that the whole point of a republic is not inheriting titles and one of the most annoying things heard in any faction of the republican movement is ‘its in the blood’ no its in the head. but the families had a platform and in a few instances in the lead up to the commemorations they used it saying no more than the general public were saying but probably getting paid a bit more attention for it.

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