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A Letter From Ireland – June 2015

I’m not sure I’m able to convey to you my sense of aggravation and disappointment or that you’ll share my feelings of utter frustration over the possible debacle our upcoming national celebration of the 1916 Rebellion is becoming.
Unfortunately, the schisms that so often curse Ireland’s political and historical past are wrapping themselves around the plans for what should be a great countrywide celebration. These divisions unfortunately are squeezing the very life breath from our centenary remembrance plans.
Sure, there’ve been moments of genuine exaltation. The move by either the British or the Irish Government, maybe both, to cancel any British royal involvement in the 2016 commemoration is most welcome. Possibly citing security concerns, the matter of a royal Easter visit died a quiet death.
Then recently, cheering the decision of the Irish Government to purchase the four disputed buildings on Moore Street for four million euros, devoted Irish breathed a sigh of relief. The last Easter-Week GHQ [Headquarters] of the Irish Volunteer army will be finally preserved as a national heritage site. But I wondered, as you no doubt did, why this decision was so long delayed? These are significant structures from an historic struggle, long ignored. Do you think the United States would ever consider selling Appomattox Courthouse to some property developer or leasing Bunker Hill to Disney for the construction of a theme park?
Saving Moore Street has been a festering topic in Dublin for a number of years. Why on God’s green earth did the Irish Dáil dither so? Now, I wonder when the lawsuits will surface over the broken promises and agreements previously negotiated with private financers to rid the city of these gritty but treasured facades lining Moore Street. Then of course, why wait to the very last minute to act? It will take a miracle to have the renovations even partly completed by March, 2016.
So, now as time draws nigh, some argumentative issues have been decided, but new ones constantly surface. I’m almost embarrassed to give them the dignity of public airing…their absurdity tests the rational mind.
Enda Kenny, our current political leader, in a moment of what presumably was blind musing, suggested rewriting the 1916 Irish Proclamation originally penned by Pádraic Pearse and James Connolly on the eve of the Rising.
Though quickly retracted, his proposal, pictured with a photo of the seven signatories, disappeared into the ‘cloud.’ In its place, Kenny endorsed a school project called ‘Proclamation for a New Generation.’ In response, David Quinn, writing in the 10 April Independent, hit the nail on the head: “Try for a moment to imagine any American politician of any note suggesting that American schools ought to come up with their own, more modern version of the Declaration of Independence. It would probably be the end of his career.”
As I wrote in a recent email, rather than rewrite the Proclamation, suggest students describe how that fateful document’s intent could prompt and inspire today’s twenty-first century citizenry.
With my head still spinning from the latest ill-advised Taoiseach’s utterance, I was totally gobsmacked when I read the remark by Tom Cooper of Templeogue, Dublin, also in the Independent. “As part of what revisionists call our ‘shared history’, relatives of British soldiers who fought and died during the Easter Rising in 1916 have called for a permanent joint memorial to the British soldiers and Irish Volunteers killed to be erected on Mount Street Bridge.”
Of the many books, etc. I’ve read about Ireland, I seldom recall running across the term “shared history” as often as I have lately. It is as though, the British, guardedly embarrassed for the many transgressions inflicted upon the Irish, are feeling some unrequited sense of guilt for their many offenses over the centuries. Yes, I know its right to forgive, but who can forget? Do you mean to tell me that at this stage of my life I’m to wallow in the muck of our “shared history” and raise a monument of absolution for the years of contemptible, fetid deeds committed in the name of God, king and country? Well, I’ll be damned!
Can you imagine the Jewish community of Warsaw putting up a tribute to the Nazis soldiers who burned their homes and murdered millions of their kinfolk under Hitler? Or what of the underground freedom fighters who resisted German oppression during the Second War? Do you think each village, town or city in Belgium, France, Denmark, Norway or the Netherlands should begin passing the hat to collect for a new war memorial?
Mr. Cooper concluded his letter with the following. “Calls for us to venerate and commemorate those who ruthlessly suppressed the Easter Rising is both insulting and demeaning to the memory of those who gave their lives in 1916 for Irish freedom. Would the British government memorialise at the Cenotaph [Whitehall, London] the countless Irish rebels killed in Britain.” I think not.
To conclude on a more positive note, the next British general election will be held on 7 May. The incumbent Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition Government may be in for a surprise. Ever since the Scottish National Party [NSP] failed to secure its country’s independence from Britain last autumn, it hasn’t been idle. Under the new leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, the party has quadrupled in size and is on the verge of winning as many as fifty seats in the House of Commons. If so, this will make the NSP the third largest political party in Parliament. With the two major parties, Conservative and Labour, not likely to win an outright majority, Sturgeon and her crowd could be asked to help form the next ruling coalition British government. This would be a great accomplishment for the upstart Scots. With Sturgeon now leading the NSP, Scotland may finally realise its long-held dream of leaving the United Kingdom and becoming truly self-governing. Surely then, can Ireland be far behind? Éireann go Brách! Cathal

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