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IRA's numerous atrocities cast a long shadow over Rising centenary


Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny


Taoiseach Enda Kenny

There was an official ceremony in Dublin on January 1 organised by the Dublin Government to mark the start of a year-long commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising. It was the first of more than 40 State ceremonial events that will be held as part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

Enda Kenny said: "(This year) belongs to everyone on this island and to our friends and families overseas. It is an invitation to join us in remembering our past, reflecting on our achievements over the last 100 years and to reimagine our Republic for future generations."

His carefully alliterated invitation spoke of remembering, reflecting and reimagining, so who was there at Dublin Castle and what did they remember?

The President of the Irish Republic was there, along with Taoiseach Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton and other politicians. Also present were two of the grandsons of James Connolly, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

They raised three flags that had been flown by the republican rebels in Dublin in 1916, and they read out the names of the 78 rebels who died during the abortive rebellion.

However, there seems to have been no similar naming of the many British soldiers who were killed by the rebels, or indeed the innocent civilians.

The year-long programme remembers the Easter Rising but the use of the word "patriots" by the Taoiseach confirms that this is to be understand as a positive and affirmatory remembrance of the rebellion - and that is where the problem lies.

The Easter Rising was the outworking of an ideology that has polluted and poisoned the history of Ireland for many generations.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was set up in 1858 as a secret oath-bound organisation determined to achieve an "independent republic" by the use of violence. It was, in effect, the forerunner of the IRA.

Between 1881 and 1885 the IRB mounted a dynamite campaign, during which it planted bombs in railway stations and other public buildings in Great Britain.

Quite a number of innocent people were injured, although the only people killed were three IRB members who died when their own bomb exploded prematurely.

By the end of the 19th century the IRB was almost moribund, but it was revived in the early years of the 20th century and its ideology of "physical force republicanism" found expression in the abortive rebellion by a small group of the most fanatical republicans at Easter 1916.

That same poisonous ideology continued through the Irish War of Independence, the Civil War and the sectarian attacks on small Protestant communities in the south.

In the years that followed the IRA suffered many setbacks.

Its attempts at collusion with the Nazis during the Second World War were largely ineffectual, and the border campaign - from 1956 to 1962 - was an abject failure.

However, the republican ideology of physical force and terrorist violence was still there, and it emerged again in the IRA campaign that started in 1969.

On January 5 we remembered another anniversary, the 40th anniversary of the Kingsmills massacre in south Armagh, when IRA gunmen murdered 10 Protestant workmen.

The van that was used by the IRA had been stolen from outside the Ballymascanlon Hotel in Co Louth on the day of the attack, and it was found the following day in Dundalk.

Enda Kenny spoke of "remembrance and reflection". Perhaps, this week, it would have been better if the Dublin Government had remembered that the Provisional IRA gang that carried out this atrocity operated from the safe haven of the Irish Republic.

It might also have helped them to reflect on the reality of those men who took part in 1916, who were the forefathers of the modern IRA.

The Irish Republic may look on the southern state as the legacy of the Easter Rising, but the legacy of the rebels also includes Kingsmills and every other IRA atrocity.

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee

Belfast Telegraph