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Spirit of Contradiction

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Be warned – 'The Revolution Papers' is an all-male baby!

category national | elections / politics | opinion/analysis author Monday January 18, 2016 12:51author by Billy Fitzpatrick Report this post to the editors

Critique of Proclamation underlines all-male composition of 'Rev Papers' editorial team

The level of involvement by women in the 1916 Rising is historically unprecedented. This is recognised and welcomed in the Proclamation. The Rising, and the Proclamation which attempted to explain it, is of international significance.

The high level of participation by women in the Irish revolution was historically unprecedented, and this is anticipated in the very opening address of the 1916 Proclamation itself.

However, the much heralded 'Revolution Papers' first episode fails to reflect this. Tasked with ‘reading between the lines’ of the Proclamation, reviewer Ronan McGreevy focusses exclusively on what he sees as its apparent contradictions. In the process, he manages to miss entirely the grand sweep of this profoundly inclusive, egalitarian, modern and, in the main, beautifully written, state-founding document of the early 20th century.

The reviewer ignores entirely the opening words of the document, ‘Irishmen and Irishwomen’, probably the first time in history that women are addressed directly as equals in a political manifesto. The same fate is meted out to the pledge to establish a government ‘elected by the suffrages of all its men and women’. Constance Markievicz, who is believed to have been the first to read aloud the Proclamation (at Liberty Hall, on Easter Monday morning) went on to become one of the first women in the modern world elected to parliament. She would become the first to wield a ministry. The dismissal, by omission, of the Proclamation’s historic gender equality significance, on the part of the 'The Revolution Papers' reviewer, is nothing short of astonishing.
Summarily ignored, also, are
The fact that the Proclamation’s progressive ideals were far from universally agreed in the early 20th century. Even a cursory look at the contemporary ‘Ulster Covenant’, would have confirmed this.
The fact that the Rising, and the ideals of the Proclamation, received a resounding endorsement at the first possible opportunity, the 1918 elections.
That the 1916 Proclamation inspired many of the liberation movements of the 20th century, acknowledged by the likes of Nehru in India, Che Guevara in Latin America and, more recently, Kader Asmal in South Africa (on receiving the French Légion d’Honneur, Dec 2005)
Enforced partition by the imperial power – the effects of which are still with us. One of the signatories (James Connolly) had warned that such an eventuality would produce a ‘carnival of reaction’ on both sides of the border
That 1916 inaugurated the real ‘war to end all (imperial) wars’ in Ireland, in that it ended the practice of recruitment of young Irishmen as fodder for Britain's endless colonial wars. Instead, the armed forces of the new, independent state would distinguish themselves as peacekeepers in the service of the United Nations.

Despite this, many of the less prominent articles are helpful and the reproduced newspapers and photographs fascinating. Gross oversights like the above mentioned, could be avoided, perhaps, in the future if ‘The Revolution Papers’ were to draft some women into their current all-male editorial board and all-male team of contributors – and, in the process, embrace the spirit of 100 years ago!

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