More on that northern contribution to the 1916 debate. April 1, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
One of the most interesting aspects of Arlene Foster’s contribution to the 1916 debate is her unwillingness or inability to understand the reasons – even if not agreeing with them – why the events took place or what motivated people to take up arms. One might think that she might be well aware of the centrality of issues like democracy, representation, religious freedoms (of a sort) and so on. Perhaps it is particularly telling that the political analysis is near absent while a faux-psychological one ‘1916 leaders were egotists’ is presented. There’s contradictions in that too – she argues that the leaders acted to ‘bring glory on themselves’ without working through how that would have functioned – clearly only if there was an acceptance amongst the Irish people that their goals, aims and to an extent methods were legitimate could that case possibly be sustained.
Of course one can take a cynical view and suspect that she knows full well that these motivations that were part and parcel of those who did participate in 1916 weren’t entirely alien to her own tradition while also feeling unable to articulate that for fear of showing weakness or any hint that there was some degree of legitimacy to them.
There’s also something horribly clunky about the effort to shoehorn in the more recent conflict, thereby ignoring the roots of that – and like so many before her, suggesting that all would be well absent 1916. As noted here the roots of the conflict in the north were grown a lot closer to her home and in some respects are much deeper than the events centred on the GPO. That’s not to say there’s no connection at all, but it is not a clear casual one. And I feel it is almost redundant to point out that the broader context of political violence and threat of same did not start in 1916 on this island. Nor is the tradition she is such a doughty defender of innocent in that regard, either before during or after.
Finally her criticism, and this has been well dealt with in comments, as regards the statement of the President in regard to imperialism is so churlish as well as – as noted previously – missing the point to an almost risible extent that one has to wonder how seriously she can take it.
It certainly is a curious situation when the British state itself is more nuanced – and I hesitate to use the word understanding for fear of condescending connotations implicit in it – than those who profess the staunchest loyalty (well, bar TUV) to that state. But it is an illustration of how far a distance has yet to be travelled when the First Minister of the Assembly is so clearly unable to offer anything but the most grudging acknowledgement of an history that led to the Republic of Ireland.