The 100 Year anniversary of the Irish 1916 Easter Rising – some thoughts


Dublin after the 1916 Easter rising

Dublin in 1916 after the Easter rising

It might be temping to consider the 1916 Easter Rising to be part of a story that is one step on the road to the birth of a new democratic nation struggling to throw off the chains of oppression, but this is simply not what actually happened at all. This weekend the Irish state is making a big deal about the anniversary and has been holding a string of ceremonies to hero worship the 1916 rebels.

There are however a few observations that often get brushed under the carpet and forgotten

They did not in any sense represent either the ambitions or the desire of the Irish people.

‘Who gave Pearse or Connolly the right to speak for Irish people?’ is a wholly appropriate question to ask, and the answer is that nobody did, they simply self-appointed themselves.

Pearse himself was a deeply delusional religious nut who truly believed that he was a Christ like figure. His choice to hold the rising at Easter was all part of this religious mindset and was quite deliberate.

The Population of Dublin reviled them for the result

The city was left in ruins …

There was, of course, anger expressed at the number of fatalities it had caused, and the scale of destruction and distress. Its timing outraged those with relatives fighting with the British Army. When they surrendered, some rebel garrisons had to be protected by the British Army from hostile crowds

… but the response to it all by the British Government then ended up nurturing a considerable degree of sympathy …

the security forces arrested 3,430 men and 79 women and of these 1,841 were sent to England and interned there. They were substantial figures in relation to the scale of the outbreak, though most (about 2,700) had been released by early August 1916. Meanwhile, those thought to have organised the insurrection had been held back in Ireland for trial – 190 men and 1 woman, Countess Markievicz. In 90 cases the court’s verdict was ‘Death by being shot’. Maxwell confirmed this judgement on 15 defendants, and these were executed between 3-12 May 1916

The commemorations recall the names of those that initiated the violence, but at the same time choose to forget those many innocent people who also died …

None of this is to ignore the 485 people killed in the Rising, most of them civilians, 40 of them children under 17, none of whom asked to die. All were ignored at the Dublin Castle ceremonies last Sunday, except for the 78 volunteers killed, whose names were read out. They at least chose to be part in the Rising. 

… and so it is in effect a commemoration of political violence that resulted in the slaughter innocent people. It is such thinking and glorification that has been the root cause of much that has troubled Ireland, and will continue to do so as long as such thinking is permitted to prevail unchallenged.

Atheist Ireland takes the right stance

Atheist Ireland was formally invited by the Irish Government to attend the State Ceremony at the GPO, they declined …

Atheist Ireland promotes an ethical secular Ireland. The 1916 rising involved an undemocratic group killing innocent people, based on a Proclamation whose authors claimed that Ireland was acting through them in the name of God, and who added: “We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms.”

The Irish Government is reinforcing the religious connotations of the rising by marking its anniversary on the wrong date. The 1916 rising began on 24 April 1916. The Government is marking its centenary four weeks early, on 27 March 2016. The reason for using the wrong date is to make the commemorations coincide with the Christian holiday of Easter.

Nearly 100 years on, we live in a Republic where the State claims that it is constitutionally obliged to buttress religious discrimination; where 90% of our primary schools are run by the Catholic church; where you have to swear a religious oath to be President, a judge or Taoiseach; and where we have recently passed a new law against blasphemy.

Atheist Ireland continues to appreciate our ongoing involvement in the political dialogue process between the Irish Government and religious and nonreligious philosophical bodies on matters of mutual concern. We respect the right of the Irish Government and all people of any beliefs, including members of Atheist Ireland, to commemorate the 1916 rising.

… and that is perhaps the best stance on it all.

If indeed some wish to commemorate, then best of luck to them with that, but they really should perhaps pause and consider what they are actually commemorating and why. They should perhaps also appreciate that the term we often use these days to describe what actually happened is terrorism.

Ivan Yates Takes a similar stance

He also refused to attend, and explains why …

My first dilemma came from embracing the unambiguous hero worship of physical force republicanism. Patrick Pearse’s words, deeds and blood sacrifice provided inspiration for generations of Irish revolutionaries. To this day this philosophy of justifying violence persists. The latest victim being a 52-year-old Belfast prison officer, Adrian Ismay, who ultimately died from a car bomb planted by the New IRA. Other non-dissident republicans are content to vindicate all killings up to the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

… A respectful remembrance is being achieved this month. But emotional nostalgia needs to be tempered with contemporary reality checks. Some politicians’ words have lapsed into hypocrisy and humbug, when we would be better served with honesty. 

.. but then he really nails it as follows …

Enjoy the celebrations, exhibitions and commemorations, but let’s not live in a time warp of venerating a romanticised and outdated rhetoric. Nelson Mandela’s greatest achievement was not being a prisoner to history, but breaking free from prejudice and sectarianism; he embraced inclusion and pluralism. It’s time to bring down the curtain on post-colonial complexes.

Leave a Reply