The 1916 Commemorations – who benefits politically? May 16, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Here’s a question. A lot was made in various circles in the years leading up to this year about the utility of the 1916 Commemorations for whoever was in government at the time. Great theories were constructed about how Sinn Féin wanted to be in government north and south of the border simultaneously when they took place. But it wasn’t restricted to them. By contrast a similar or parallel theory was abroad that were Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in power it would cement their ‘ownership’ of the state.
Implicit in all this was that the Commemorations would confer some positive political outcome or effect for whoever was able to shape them. And there’s still echoes of this – for example in the most recent edition of Prospect magazine Ruth Dudley Edwards contrasts state and Sinn Féin exhibitions on the year (though noticeably remains coy about her own views on the issue. A casual appraisal of the article might suggest she was generally supportive of the actual events of 1916).
Indeed she explicitly references the supposed power of the Commemorations as follows:
At their most optimistic Sinn Féin had hoped that by 2016 they would be in government north and south, with Martin McGuinness as President and Adams as Taoiseach on the stand reviewing the troops. It hasn’t happened, and the 1916 commemoration will not increase Sinn Féin’s popularity. The Irish are too sophisticated these days to accept inherited myths uncritically. They’re curious about what happened in 1916 and are now aware that good Irishmen were killed in British uniforms: one bestselling book has been about the 40 children killed during the Rising.
I think she distorts SF’s contribution to some degree, but more importantly she doesn’t examine another aspect. If it is true that the commemorations haven’t increased SF’s popularity, well, much the same can be said for both Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour. For them there has been no commemoration dividend either. We’re lacking in polls at the moment but few would argue that the state commemorations played to partisan politics in the way she seems to suggest it played against SF.
But, that being the case was the idea of a commemoration dividend overdone from the off? The great fear from the Dudley Edwards and Harris contingent was of an atavistic lurch towards conflict (or nationalism and republicanism), as they saw it. Yet – as noted here before – that was always a most distant possibility and it speaks more of their sense of Irish citizens as an unformed and uncritical mob unable to restrain themselves or exercise any ability to critique matters. Some might say that is an exaggeration but once in conversation with a friend of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s I was told that O’Brien believed – and I paraphrase – that essentially there was a mob mentality extant in people and furthermore that the person I was talking to agreed with that idea wholeheartedly. That’s quite a view to take of people. What’s curious is that the actual history of the past century in this state tends to suggest otherwise.
Still, all that aside nonetheless evidence of said commemoration dividend is thin on the ground. What isn’t quite so thin on the ground is a general sentiment in favour of those who fought in 1916 for independence – this somewhat undermines Edwards line that ‘the Irish are no longer inclined towards blind loyalty to the dead of 1916’. Blind? No – the nuances and contradictions of the events of that Easter are too obvious to allow for that, but loyalty, I think yes. Low key but evident.
What do people think? Is that assessment of loyalty correct. And further, were, or are or will there be political benefits? If so what and if not why?