ame answer may well indeed be given to those who would have us commemorate, next month, the centenary of the enactment of Home Rule. What is there to commemorate in the passing of a Bill that was never allowed to be implemented?
To look at the question we must take three issues into consideration. The first of these being the intransigence of the conservative British establishment and aristocracy to any question of granting home rule to Ireland.
The second issue we must look at is the political mood that existed in Ireland with the background of World War I and the influence that war had on the leaders of the Rising of 1916.
The third issue we must consider are the values that were enshrined in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on that fateful Easter Monday
Conservative politicians, the aristocracy and the top echelons of the British military had always been appalled at any idea of home rule for Ireland. As far back as 1886 Lord Randolph Churchill, was the first to realise the ‘Orange card was the card to play’. The Liberal Party that had supported Home Rule under Gladstone moved away from that policy under Asquith. But the Conservative and the Liberal parties always operated in the interests of British politics, and never in the interests of Ireland.
In their resistance to home rule, elements in the British army and the Conservative establishment were prepared to fraternise with Germany in order to obtain illegal weapons for Carson’s rebels at a time when they were well aware that they were likely to be at war with Germany sooner rather than later. A fraternisation for which Roger Casement would be charged with treason and later hanged.
The Easter Rising
It must be remembered that the Easter Rising did not occur in isolation; it took place in the middle of World War I. The leaders had watched thousands of young men being sacrificed on the battlefields of Europe, ostensibly for the ‘freedom of small nations’, and had decided that it was ‘better to die ‘neath an Irish sky’ in a fight for their own ‘small nation’. And yes they were pragmatic enough to realise they would need arms and support from ‘allies in Europe’ those same sources that had supplied arms to Carson’s Ulster rebels; an action to which Britain had turned a blind eye.
When he addressed his court martial accusers’, Pearce said, ‘Germany means no more to me than England does’. Connolly had displayed a banner across the front of Liberty Hall, which read. We Serve Neither King Nor Kaiser. These were hardly the actions of men who were in the pay of or had been duped by Germany. As the Proclamation stated they relied first on their ‘own strength’. At his court martial Connolly said ‘We believe the call we made was in a holier cause than any call made during this war’.
John Redmond, in his address to the Irish Volunteers at Woodenbridge (Aug 1914), had sent thousands of Irishman to their deaths in the interests of conflicting empires. This he did without any consultation with his own party. Such were the times and the deeds that convinced thinking men and women to abandon Home Rule, the Monarchy and the rule of Westminster and declare an Irish Republic; where they would be citizens and not subjects.
The claim that many families ‘of minority religions were made to feel unwelcome in Ireland and some left as Ireland became a less diverse society’ is true. The first ten years of independence saw Ireland run by ‘a native gombeen ascendency buttressed by the Roman Catholic Church’. Later there was De Valera’s Roman Catholic fiefdom and a ‘privileged position’ for that religion as part of the state apparatus. A situation that was not helped by the inconsiderate pronouncement of Cardinal McRory, that soon there would not be Protestant left in the country. None of which can be sheeted home to the men of 1916.
Values enshrined in the Proclamation
The declared aims of the Proclamation of the Republic were stated thus: ‘The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens…. cherishing all the children of the nation equally’. This was again ratified by the first Dail in 1919 in The Democratic Programme:
….we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation…. It shall be our duty to promote the development of the Nation’s resources, to increase the productivity of its soil, to exploit its mineral deposits, peat bogs, and fisheries, its waterways and harbours, in the interests and for the benefit of the Irish people.
For over ninety years since independence these aims and ideals have been neglected by successive governments in the southern Irish state. Had they been adhered to perhaps the Ulster unionists may have found less reason to resist a unified country. Instead there has been a move away from the principles of the Republic and a concerted effort in support of revisionism; with every excuse being used to rewrite history rather than to accept that the ideals of Easter Week and later the Democratic Programme and the War of Independence, have never been achieved.
In this era of globalisation, and the demise of the nation state, one may ask why it is essential at all to answer or even discuss the questions of events that occurred a hundred years ago. And the answer must surely be that the values of the Irish Republic have been enshrined in the hearts of Irishmen and Irishwomen wherever green is worn. As Thomas McDonagh said of the Proclamation ‘It lives. It lives. From minds alive with Ireland's brilliant intellect it sprang…. Such documents do not die’.
No, ‘the same destination, at which we eventually arrived anyway’ is not the last stop on the road for the many that believe in the aims of a true Republic as outlined above.
Rather than commemorate the centenary of a failed Home Rule Bill, it may be more appropriate to declare a National Day of Mourning for a failed Republic.
Dan Breen in the Tipperary Flying column, he was wounded in action and awarded the active service medal for the war of independence. The Doherty part of my ancestry dates directly back to the 1700s when my ancestors where forced to leave Donegal. Prior to that the Dohertys were the last Irish tribe to fight the English decades after the flight of the earls ( to no avail). Ill give you the full family tree some day.…
search throughout the BMH – free of charge - to help you in your research.
(BMH) is a collection of 1,773 witness statements; 334 sets of contemporary documents; 42 sets of photographs and 13 voice recordings that were collected by the State between 1947 and 1957, in order to gather primary source material for the revolutionary period in Ireland from 1913 to 1921. The Bureau’s official brief was ‘to assemble and co-ordinate material to form the basis for the compilation of the history of the movement for Independence from the formation of the Irish Volunteers on 25th November 1913, to the 11th July 1921’ (report of the Director, 1957).
It has a searchable index of the witnesses HERE.…
As a writer of fiction, I wanted to conjure the ancient while writing in the present, so I made it Loingsigh. I am not the biggest fan of the Anglo, Anglo-Saxon. I feel closer to the history of the Celts who were invaded by Julius Ceaser (see Vercingetorix) and were exiled from the European mainland to the Western most island of Ireland. In the 1840s, after having their language and culture made illegal by foreigners, they were pushed out even further into the water to the coffin ships, if not the ditches and boreens, with the life starved from them. Yet we still survive, don't we? You know that we do!
My book, the first in a trilogy, called "Light of the Diddicoy," is about a 14 year old Irish immigrant in 1915 who is forced to join the White Hand Gang along the docks of Brooklyn in order to make enough money to get his mother and two sisters out of the countryside of Ireland after the Easter Rising and the coming War of Independence and Civil War, is due out March 17, 2014. That's St. Paddy's Day, of course.
Thanks so much for welcoming me. I've been a close Wild Geese fan for a couple years and have followed the site closely. Now that my publisher is requesting me to come out from behind the closet, I figured I'd make my way onto the site's radar.
Crimea, India and the South. For him, it was a job. Others joined out of loyalty to their state.
One of my distant cousins was Maj. Pierce Butler who was a British officer in America before the American Revolution. He married a South Carolina woman and resigned his commission. With the proceeds, he bought plantations in South Carolina and Georgia. After the Revolution, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and later a US Senator. He was largely responsible for keeping slavery in the US after independence, not a fact I'm proud of as his cousin. His family was one of the largest slaveholders in the South. A fascinating history of 5 generations of his family can be found in a book "Major Butler's Legacy" which is online with a few segments missing. Pierce was the son of Richard Butler, 5th Baronet of Cloughgrenan in Co.Carlow, Ireland. So the legacy of his family and slavery stretched from pre-Revolution to the Civil War. …
nd Mid-Limerick Brigades ambushed a two lorry convoy of RIC and Black & Tans of February 3rd in Dromkeen, killing eleven of them. Not all of them died during the fighting. With their proclamation that any Volunteers captured with weapons would be executed, the British government had ensured that the fight would descend even further “into the mire.”…