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1916 ‘illegitimate’…? May 17, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I find it ever more curious to read stuff like this from former FF Attorney General Paul Gallagher who suggests that:

The 1916 Rising “cannot be justified by what happened in retrospect”, former Fianna Fáil attorney general Paul Gallagher has said, arguing the leaders of the rebellion “had no legitimacy whatsoever”.

What is deeply puzzling is how ahistoric it all is. Ruth Dudley Edwards is another who seems to regard British rule in Ireland as somehow democratic when the truth is it was anything but, that the nature of that rule, the militarisation of it, the truncated nature of democratic representation at Westminster, the very real constraints on the franchise, the lack of adherence to what we would regard as democratic norms on the part of the leading lights of Home Rule (most notably their hostility to extension of the franchise to women) and so on would make any easy calculation as to where legitimacy lay at the least open to question.

And it is not as if one can use the excuse that it was then and the concept of advanced bourgeois democracy was somehow unknown. Those involved in the Rising explicitly acknowledged the centrality of, for example, women’s suffrage. Their very concept of democracy was more advanced from the off than those who had nominal and de facto governance of the island. Nor was it unknown abroad, I need hardly mention New Zealand which had gave the vote in 1893, a good quarter of a century earlier, of Finland, or Norway in the 1910s.

Gallagher claims that:

“making all due allowances for the period of history in which this was… you cannot assert and claim a power to dictate the lives of other people in the way which these people did”

But that simply doesn’t stack up given the actual nature of British rule and representation.

Gallagher can blithely ignore this, and of course, centre around to the issue of ‘violence’ as if that too existed in a vacuum, that it was some alien irruption into the Irish polity in the 1910s caused exclusively by those involved in the Rising. This takes a particularly curious turn when he says:

“I don’t want, as an Irishman, to be distinguished by a capacity for violence,” he said, questioning the democratic credentials of the 1916 leaders.
“They decided what people like you and me wanted and should do, and the cost didn’t matter. It was Providence that so many more weren’t killed.”

Yet again one feels that really this isn’t about 1916 but about 1968 and after:

In the Troubles of recent decades in Northern Ireland, “all of these thugs and murderers claimed they were doing this in a cause that deserved to be revered, in a cause that they said justified anything, in a cause they said was going to improve the lives of all the people who undoubtedly were being discriminated against”.
It was the case that “for over 70 years following 1916 we were a country that did not realise our potential. We were obsessed with the past, we were obsessed with who did what in 1916. It itself was used to discriminate between people,” said Mr Gallagher.

And also:

I regret greatly the lost years and I believe that Ireland between 1920 and 1980, perhaps even 1990, was a wasteland for so many people.
“People were confused, they didn’t feel there was any prospect of Ireland bettering itself in any real way; that we were stuck in some sort of time warp. That, I’m afraid, is the legacy of 1916, at least in part.”

I find that perhaps the least convincing part of the argument. Firstly he offers no alternative path, and how could he? Secondly it is far from clear that what did take place was a simple linear progression from 1916. It – obviously – played its part, but while pivotal there were other dynamics on the island, for example unionism as it existed for a start was likely going to necessitate some form of partition, whether in weak or strong variant for some time. Partition psychologically impacted hugely, albeit in curious ways.

Those who oversaw the southern state were probably not going to be hugely different from those who might have overseen the state in any alternative political environment (or at least those who were pro-Home Rule found political homes subsequently, as was inevitable, and some found their way to the top of the heap while doing so). The class character wouldn’t have been so different, and arguably might have been worse – there’s something to be said for the way in which the Rising did at least partially – and only partially – deconstruct Home Rule elites.

And then there’s this:

It was the case that “for over 70 years following 1916 we were a country that did not realise our potential. We were obsessed with the past, we were obsessed with who did what in 1916. It itself was used to discriminate between people,” said Mr Gallagher.

Isn’t that overstating the case just a tad? Wasn’t there a little more to it than 1916? And all this from a former A-G?

Comments»

1. roddy - May 17, 2016

Was this man a member of FF? Surely anybody who joined Dev’s party would know that total uncritical support for 1916 was “the first commandment”.Say what you like about Dev and there is much to criticise but debunking of 1916 would have been out of the question for him and the rest of the founding fathers.

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2. EWI - May 17, 2016

The ‘time warps’ were from 1923 and 1972, respectively.

Another malicious piece from McGarry. Maybe the Irish Times can show us what this mythical ‘legitimate rebellion’ looks like, and without quoting any pet Jesuits, pining for Empire?

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3. Roger Cole - May 18, 2016

The Irish Times supports the use of Shannon Airport by the American Empire as its pursues its Imperial wars today just as it supported the British Empire in its imperial wars in 1916. That paper like McGarry has never changed.The problem for McGarry & the IT is that the last few months have shown that the vast majority of the Irish people are proud of the 1916 Rising.

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