Belfast Telegraph

Dublin Archbishop warns of 'abuse of memory' over 1916 Easter Rising

By Allan Preston

With the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising just weeks away, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin has warned against an abuse of history.

In a speech at Dublin City University, Archbishop Michael Jackson argued the handling of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966 ended up alienating Protestants in Northern Ireland.

He also praised First Minister Arlene Foster for her willingness to engage in a conversation about the rebellion against British rule in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of the Dublin City University 1916 programme, the Archbishop said that in 1966: "The swift following-on of the Troubles and the political ambiguities around gun-running and the parallel deployment of members of the Irish Army along the border simply underpinned an emerging anxiety and erosion of trust by neighbour of neighbour in Northern Ireland."

Archbishop Jackson (right), like Mrs Foster, grew up in Lisnaskea in the border area of Co Fermanagh.

He claimed that throughout the Troubles "its people were subjected to an orchestrated programme of removal of its citizens who were Protestants right along its own border with the Republic of Ireland in what would be called 'ethnic cleansing' elsewhere in the world".

He referred to the Enniskillen Remembrance Day atrocity in 1987 as an example of the "abuse of memory".

The IRA detonated a bomb that day near the town's Cenotaph, leaving 11 people dead 63 badly injured.

The leading cleric said those present were "people in a free country honouring their war dead" and not Protestant paramilitaries "strutting their stuff".

"But to the perpetrators of the Enniskillen bomb, they had become homogenised and swept into a zone of entitled hatred as 'The British'," he added.

He also cited the Omagh bomb in 1998, when 29 shoppers and visitors to the Co Tyrone town were massacred by the Real IRA.

He insisted it was not his intention to put the blame on people wishing to remember 1916.

Rather, he wished to alert everyone "with a shared interest in a different future, to the repercussions of the abuse of memory and commemoration from within our fractured history".

He added: "History, as well as being an analysis and a narrative, is a commodity for those who wish to use it and to abuse it as such."

During his speech the Archbishop recalled an Easter Rising event this year attended by the First Minister and Taoiseach.

He said: "The First Minister pointed out to the assembled media that she was deeply uneasy with celebration of the Rising per se, but was more than willing to engage in analysis and conversation to better understand this seminal event in the history of both parts of Ireland."

In conclusion, he said: "Her note of cautious realism is important to us all if we are to have a blend of voices by the time we reach even 2017."

Belfast Telegraph


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