Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Myers: There is nothing to celebrate in the Easter Rising

Nothing, absolutely nothing

I forbore to write about the commemorations for the 1916 Rising, not least because you probably know what I'm going to say anyway.

But then I saw how even Irish editions of British tabloids referred to the insurgents as "heroes", and how many newspapers referred to last Sunday's ceremonies as "celebrations": so wearily lifting my spade, I return to the much-dug field of clay yet again.



What is there to celebrate about the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent people in the streets of Dublin?



And who gave the insurgents the right to kill their unarmed fellow Irishmen and women? I have asked these questions many times over the years, and I never get an answer to them, only to other questions which I haven't asked. These questions - such as 'Who gave the British the right to make their empire by force of arms?' or 'Who gave the Ulster Volunteers the right to import weapons?' - are perfectly valid, but they are not answers to my questions.



These remain. I ask them again. I ask them particularly of the Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, the foremost Episcopal apologist for the murderers of 1916.



Who gave John Connolly of the Irish Citizens' Army the right to murder the unarmed police constable James O'Brien outside Dublin Castle at noon on Easter Monday in 1916?



Who gave Constance Markievitz the right to shoot dead Constable Michael Lahiffe in St Stephen's Green a few minutes later? Who gave some unknown gunman the right to shoot Royal Dublin Fusilier John Humphreys in the back of the head at around the same time, fatally injuring him?



Who gave another gunman the right to shoot dead an unnamed woman outside Jacob's factory, at point-blank range? Who gave Volunteer Garry Holohan the right to very deliberately and fatally shoot a teenage boy named Playfair during a raid at the Phoenix Park magazine?



These people had risen from their beds that morning, with no notion about the republic or a rising or anything other than getting through the day. Well, that's what they didn't do: but far from referring to the victims when he was speaking about the rising, the Bishop of Meath said last year: " Those who led the rebellion believed in conscience that their planned action was the only way to evoke a hearing. Subsequent developments confirm the validity of this view."



Good. Excellent. So the Irish dead of noon on Easter Monday were made to forfeit their lives simply to enable the organisers of the rebellion " to evoke a hearing". Just where does it say in Canon Law that human life is sacrosanct, unless Irish republicans want to have a hearing, and then it's really up to individual republicans to decide whom they kill? Never mind that without conscription here, there was more freedom in Ireland than in Britain. Never mind that the electoral laws were the same in both countries. Never mind that, James Connolly aside, not one of the signatories had ever tried to get democratically elected for anything, and he had been roundly defeated in local government elections when he contested the Wood Quay ward.



Of course, those who "celebrate" the rising usually do so around a sanitised narrative, best exemplified in Tim Pat Coogan's dreadful book '1916', which makes no mention of the many early killings by the insurgents, and by name refers just to the shooting of young Playfair - history doesn't allocate him a first name. Coogan doesn't even call it murder - just as one of the "saddest" fatalities. The justification he gives for this evil deed was that the boy was about to raise the "alarm" about the raid. Raise the alarm?



But this was a public insurrection, not a secret one. What "alarm" could he possibly raise, when all over the city armed men were very conspicuously taking over buildings and shooting people? Needless to say, having almost ignored this wave of murders at the start of the rising, Coogan dedicates page after page to the murders by British soldiers of civilians in the North King Street area at the rising's end.



Yet these final, dreadful killings alone should tell us that there is nothing to celebrate in the rising. Nothing, absolutely nothing.



It was the start of six lunatic years of civil war: for when Irishmen had finished killing Irishmen and then Britons, it was back to Irishmen killing Irishmen again, before a partitioned, independent Ireland marched into a 40-year-long cul-de-sac of isolation and poverty.



It was only when we undid the isolationist consequences of the rising that we began to create a country which could give its children jobs at home rather than one-way tickets on the mailboat to the very land against which the rising had been fought.



And the Celtic Tiger - an open economy, with free movement of capital, and with the immigration of hundreds of thousands of foreigners - is the very antithesis of what Pearse and Connolly had wanted.



One sought a totalitarian Marxist state, the other a protected Gaelic paradise, in a united Irish republic.



So here is the imbecilic equation of Irish republicanism, like a diseased Irish joke of yesteryear: Murder + Failure = Celebration.

Belfast Telegraph

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