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The National 1916 commemoration committee - reclaim the Proclamation !!
history and heritage |
Saturday August 12, 2006 02:01 by Kevin Murphy - 32 County Sovereignty Movement ( south Armagh) sarmagh32csm at hotmail dot com
The states photo opportunities are over for this year - who stands by the republic now ?
As the hypocritical farce which was the 26 county states dishonest attempt to misrepresent and hijack the anniversary of the Easter Rising fades for another year the real work of reclaiming the republic for the people carries on in the background . The National 1916 commemoration Committee was founded in 2001 with the express purpose of commemorating and remembering the ideals , aims and sacrifice of the 1916 rising in a dignified and fitting manner as the 100th anniversary of this momentous event draws ever nearer . It is essential Irish people are made aware of the yawning gulf between the aims of 1916 and the reality of the corrupt, servile neo-colonial 26 county state , which stands in fundamental opposition to everything 1916 was about - the sovereign ownership of Ireland, its territory and resources, by the people of Ireland . With the ongoing foreign occupation of our northern territory , the theft of our national resources - gas , oil and the imminent privatisation of our water resources in the north , the use of Shannon to facilitate mass murder , kidnap and imperialist ventures throughout the globe it can be stated quite honestly that Ireland today remains a subjugated land , outside of the ownership of the Irish people . Irish sovereignty in all its forms has been cast aside by native capitalists in ignnominious servitude to foreign masters and landlords . The National 1916 Commemoration Committee urges all Irish citizens to stand against these multiple usurpations of our sovereignty , to reject the states hypocritical ceremonies in future and stand with them in commemorating the ideals and aims of 1916 . It is essential this debate is kept alive and as part of our attempts to do so we present this article examining the motivations and aims of the 1916 leaders .
Padraig Pearse at the Funeral of O'Donovan Rossa
Eiri Amach na Casca
'Sé do bheatha a bhean ba léanmhar!
B’é ár gcreach tú bheith i ngéibhinn
Do dhúthaigh bhreá i seilbh meirleach
Is tú díolta leis na Gallaibh
Óró ! Sé do bheatha ‘bhaile !
Óró ! Sé do bheatha ‘bhaile !
Óró ! Sé do bheatha ‘bhaile !
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh .
Tá Gráinne Mhaol ag teacht thar sáile,
Óglaigh armtha léi mar gharda -
Gaeil iad féin is ní Frainc ná Spáinnigh -
Is cuirfidh siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh.
A bhuí le Rí na bhFeart go bhfeicfainn,
Muna mbeinn beo ina dhiadh ach seachtain,
Gráinne Mhaol agus míle gaiscíoch
Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh.
Padraig Mac Piarais
When Padraig Mac Piarais penned those verses he was following in the footsteps and traditions of the great Gaelic Aisling poets of the late 16th, 17th and 18th centuries , men such as Art Mac Cúmhaidh , Seamus Dall Mac Cuarta , Peadar Ó Doirnin , Aogan Ó Rathaille and a host of other gaelic scholars . These were individuals who had been born in the era following the flight of the earls . They lived in an Ireland where the political , social , economic and military power of the gaelic and Brehon system had been broken and the Irish were subjugated to English rule . Despite the military defeats of the 17th century and the impact of the penal laws in the 18th century however , the Gaelic language , folklore , poetry music dance and song remained an integral part of the daily lives of the native Irish until the mid 19th century . They were kept alive by na Filí and the travelling bards and harpists . The plight of the people of this period was reflected in many of the poems and songs composed and made popular in that era . A recurring theme in many was the hope that Gaelic Ireland would one day be restored to its former political and military status . In many of these works a coded political message was delivered . Ireland was presented as the beautiful lady or the mystic vision returning to rouse her children from their servile slumber . In later years Ireland in literary and theatrical circles was often referred to as Roisín Dúbh , Grainne Mhaol , Dark Rosaleen or Kathleen ní Houlihan , the beautiful mystical vision which would at the appropriate time in history be transformed into political reality - a sovereign , independent , Gaelic Irish Republic . It was a theme which held great appeal for the Young Ireland Movement , particularly that section of cultural nationalists within the organisation exemplified by an individual such as Thomas Davis .
The Young Irelanders are an important grouping , historically and politically , when analysing the ideological motivations of the 1916 insurgents . Two of the leading ideologues of the Easter Rising , Padraig Mac Piarais and James Connolly were deeply influenced by the Young Ireland movement ; Pearse by Thomas Davis and Connolly by James Fintan Lalor . Its therefore not intended here to present to the reader a chronological account of the events of Easter week in Dublin in 1916 . Republicans are well conversant with that epic period in Irish history . Instead we will outline the ideological motivation of the men and women who partook in the insurgency by examining the political philosophies of Pearse and Connolly , identifying the political and economic systems which they confronted and sought to overthrow . We will assess the relevance of their teachings to the Ireland of today and measure the present day strength of the enemies they faced and their continuing influence on Irish society .
It is claimed by many historians and political scientists that when Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in front of the GPO that he drew into the light of day not a single strain of Irish republicanism but the entire tapestry of Irish traditions ; social radicalism in the person of Connolly ; the conspiratorial dedication to physical force personified in the old Fenian , Tom Clarke and the romantic Ireland of the cultural nationalists as represented by Pearse himself , Joseph Plunkett and Tomás Mac Donagh .The various ideological threads threads which permeate the 1916 proclamation trace their roots back to the Young Irelanders and the teachings of Thomas Davis , Fintan Lalor and John Mitchell .
In his pamphlet entitled “ The Sovereign People” Pearse referred to Theobald Wolfe Tone , Davis , Lalor and Mitchell as “the four evangelists” of Irish republicanism . He wrote :
“ Tone is the intellectual ancestor of the whole modern movement of Irish nationalism , of Davis, Lalor , Mitchell and their followers . Davis is the immediate ancestor of the spiritual and imaginative part of the movement , embodied in our day in the Gaelic League . Lalor is the immediate ancestor of the specifically democratic part of the movement embodied today in the more virile labour organisations . Mitchell is the immediate ancestor of Fenianism , the noblest and most terrible manifestation of this unconquered nation”
From the time of the French Revolution , the ideal of an Irish Republic , asserting the principles of Liberty , Equality and Fraternity had motivated generations of young Irish hearts and minds . The writings of many of their leaders reveal what their ultimate objective was - “ Separation from England and her establishment as an independent Republic ” was Tones final ideal for Ireland . “ Our object is to establish a free and independent Republic in Ireland” declared Robert Emmets’ manifesto in 1803 .
“ Freedom can but take one shape among us - a Republic” - Thomas Devin O’Reilly , one of the revolutionaries of 1848 affirmed , and John Mitchell wrote in his Jail Journal “ I have made sure the struggle will become a republican one in the long run” .
The men who led the Young Ireland Movement were a band of gifted and devoted Irish men . They came mainly from a Protestant middle class background . They were very unfortunate in their revolutionary endeavours . Thomas Davis died at the critical moment of preparation . John Mitchell was convicted of treason felony and transported to a penal colony for 14 years . The small armed force led out by Smith O’Brien and Francis Meagher was broken at the first encounter . Their effort failed however , as Tones had failed and Emmets had failed, but it served like theirs as a symbolic gesture and protest . It left a memory , a legacy and literature which never ceased to influence the thoughts of the nation . And it left the Tricolour , the flag of green , white and orange presented to the Young Irelanders by the Republicans of France . It was the survivors of the struggle of 1848 who formed the Irish Republican Brotherhood , led by John O’Mahoney in the United States of America in 1858 . The centre of the IRB organisation remained in the US .It was supported by a large , powerful and virulently anti-British organisation , the Irish American Clan na nGael . James Stephens , in exile since 1848 was entrusted with the task of coming to Ireland , organising the Republican Brotherhood and preparing for a Rising . Among his first comrades was Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa . The strongly anti- British mindset of the IRB was hardly surprising given the historical background and geographical location of its evolution - the Irish communities in the United States in the aftermath of the genocidal Ocras Mhór of 1846-51 . These were people whose personal experiences and abiding memories of the British imperialist ethos and system were horrific in the extreme . They were determined that , despite the overwhelming power of the foe they faced , they would content themselves with nothing less than a sovereign , independent Irish Republic .
For 60 years after its formation the Irish Republican Brotherhood was to play a pivotal , but in many instances a secret , invisible role in Irish politics . It was instrumental in organising the Fenian Rising of 1867 .It gave the seal of approval to the New Departure of 1879 and was prepared to co-operate with Parnell and the Irish Nationalist Party and Michael Davitt and the Land League for what it perceived to be short term strategic political advances . However it never lost sight of its ultimate goal - to sever the British connection in its entirety and was fully prepared to use physical force to achieve that end . It was the Irish Republican Brotherhood who advocated , planned for and initiated the Easter Rising in 1916 . When Edward VII visited Dublin in 1903 the atmosphere , and celebrations in that metropolis seemed to confirm the British view of the Irish capital as the second city of their British Empire . That nauseating celebration of servility and imperialism proved all too much for the stomachs of the IRB leadership and the conclusion drawn by them at the end of those dire proceedings was that something had to be done . It would require drastic action to redeem the ancient Irish nation from irretrievable servile ignominy . With the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914 they were determined to implement the maxim that Englands’ difficulty is Irelands’ opportunity . The mood of the IRB was summed up in the lines from Pearses poem “Fornocht dó Chonnacht dú”
I have turned my face
To this road before me
To the deed that I see
And the death I shall die
It was a conviction that only through death , most probably their own deaths , that a sovereign , independent Irish nation could live again .
And should they have been successful in their struggle what model of state , what type of society did these revolutionaries envisage for their new independent Ireland ? In response Pearse asserts the aims and ideals of the four evangelists ;
“ Whereas Tone had accepted Ireland must be free , Davis , accepting that and developing it , stated the truth in its spiritual aspect , that Ireland must be herself ; not merely a free self governing state but authentically the Irish nation , bearing all the majestic marks of her nationhood . That the nation may live , the Irish life , both the inner life and the outer life must be conserved . Hence the language which is the main repository of the Irish life , the folklore , the literature , the music , the art, the social customs must be conserved “
As Davis had also stated “ A people without a language of its own is only half a nation . A nation should guard its language more than its territories - tis a surer barrier , and more important frontier than fortress or river”
Therefore the Ireland that they envisaged would be “ Ní ach saor amhain , ach Gaelic chomh maith , ní ach Gaelic amhain ach saor chomh maith”
In the Sovereign People written in March 1916 Pearse dealt with Lalor and Mitchell and their social attitudes “ The nations Sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation but to all the material possessions of the nation , the nations soil and all its resources , all its wealth and all wealth producing processes within in the nation . In other words no private right to property is good against the public right and welfare of the nation” .
Although Pearse embraced no coherent socialist doctrine we can detect a distinct sharp move to the left in his speeches and writings in the period from 1913 to the outbreak of the Rising . He fully supported the Dublin working class in their struggle against the noxious William Martin Murphy and the employers during the Lock-Out . He was appalled at the conditions in which the workers were obliged to toil and the poverty and squalor they and their families had to endure in their daily lives . The brutality meted out to them by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary angered him deeply . He was determined , that in the Ireland he envisaged , the nations rulers would be truly representative of all the people , not just one dominant class and he asserted that ;
“ It is , in fact, true that the repositories of the Irish tradition , as well as the spiritual tradition of nationality as the kindred tradition of stubborn physical resistance to England have been the great , splendid, faithful common people - that dumb multitudinous throng which sorrowed through the penal night, which bled in 98, which starved in the Famine , and which is here still - what is left of it - unbought and unterrified . Let no man be mistaken as to who will be Lord in Ireland when Ireland is free . The people will be Lord and master”
Fintan Lalor was Pearses’ acknowleged inspiration when he wrote these words, as he also inspired Connolly . A favourite extract from Lalors writings which appealed to both patriots was the passage where he outlined his plans and stated that he sought - “Not to repeal the Union, then, but the conquest - not to disturb and dismantle the empire , but to abolish it forever. Not to resume or restore an old constitution, but to found a new nation and to raise up a free people , and strong as well as free, and secure as well as strong , based on a peasantry rooted like rocks in the soil of their land”
Many Socialists , both internationally and admittedly some Irish , claim to have never understood or have found it difficult to come to terms with Connolly’s participation in the events of Easter week 1916 . They regarded the rising as a nationalist putsch, which lacked popular support and a clearly defined social and economic programme . Connolly was an outstanding political thinker and theoretician , even the most implacable of his foes conceded that fact . Intellectually he was superior to Pearse , very much the realist and sharp political scientist and analyst , whereas the latter, despite his undoubted academic achievements and scholarly and literary ability remained a romantic figure and Gaelic visionary . The tributes to Connollys intellect and ability poured in from individuals who were themselves intellectual , political and literary heavyweights in their own right . They are too numerous to list . It was said of him that “ he had the most vital democratic mind in the Ireland of his day . A man of genius and character. A born leader of men, a most extraordinary man. With the possible exception of Robert Emmett there is not in the whole gallery of Irish revolutionaries a more commanding figure or interesting personality than that of James Connolly”
Although the majority of socialists outside Ireland claim to be somewhat confused by Connolly’s actions , there were those who supported him . One of these was an obscure Russian revolutionary named Lenin who wrote in relation to the Easter Rising in October 1916 ;
“ The misfortune of the Irish is that they have risen prematurely when the European revolt of the proletariat has not yet matured . On the other hand the very fact that revolts break out at different times in different places ….guarantees wide scope and depth to the general movement , only in premature , partial, scattered and therefore unsuccessful revolutionary movements do the masses gain experience , acquire knowledge , gather strength, get to know their real leaders, the socialist proletarians , and in this way prepare for the general onslaught”
The reason why James Connolly weighed in behind the Irish Republican Brotherhood and became a member of its military council is in fact quite clear cut . In turn, the reason why so many socialists and members of the various European and British Labour and Trade Union movements professed bewilderment was a clumsy attempt on their part to divert attention from, and create a smokescreen for the fact, that although they had professed their commitment to socialism and the unity of the working class across all national borders they had fully committed the membership of their political parties and trade union organisations to a blatant , unnecessary imperialist war . With the outbreak of World War 1 Connolly had placed great faith in the ability of the international socialist movement to prevent the general mobilisation of the armies in Europe . He was not alone in his belief . In fact the German General Staff , including Hindenburg and Ludendorff , had expressed their their grave concerns to the Kaiser , Wilhelm II, that the strength of the German left might cause serious problems in relation to German mobilisation . However when war broke out not only did the Labour and trade union movements acquiesce in their respective national call ups they called on their members to increase war production . They agreed to the banning of strikes and many trade union leaders even served in the national governments during the war . A despairing Connolly remarked “ What then Becomes of all our protests of fraternisation , all our hopes for the future ? Were they all as sound and fury signifying nothing ?”
Bear in mind the horrendous slaughter of World War 1 and the totally selfish imperialist and expansionist reasons for it . The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings on a weekly basis for professed causes which were of no concern or relevance to the vast majority of the fallen . Dwell on the fact that the respective heads of the 3 Royal Families involved , George V, Wilhelm II and Nicholas II were full cousins and assess the impact of this horrendous obscenity on an individual with the intellect , strength of character and moral fibre of James Connolly . He became disillusioned , not with the political ideology of socialism but with some of the personnel and organisations who professed to be socialists yet supported an imperialist war in which the working classes of Europe were being slaughtered .
Connolly now realised that if there was ever to be any hope for a socialist society in the Ireland of the future , then the working class could not rely on support and solidarity from the British Labour and Trade Union Movement . He came to the conclusion that an essential pre-requisite for the advancement of socialism in Ireland was the need to break the political connection between Ireland and Britain and her Empire . He led his Irish Citizens Army alongside Pearse and the Irish Volunteers in a head on clash with British imperialism . Both individuals identified clearly the evils of imperialist aggression , conquest and subjugation . Connolly in addition was determined to strive to eradicate the scourge of capitalist exploitation . Pearse was undoubtedly moving increasingly leftwards in his political and ideological thinking , and these two individuals with highly principled ideals , sharp intellect and noble character led their small band of followers into the lions den of head on confrontation with the twin evils of capitalism and imperialism .
So how did the average citizen of Dublin react to their revolutionary enterprise ? Stephen McKenna , one of his few supporters outside the GPO recorded the scene as Pearse read out the Proclamation to the crowd in Sackville Street .
“Very pale he was , very cold of face, as he scanned the crowd , the indifferent-seeming crowd that at times and in places warmed only to show positive hostility . I saw him read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic ; but for once the magnetism had left him; the response was chilling; a few thin perfunctory cheers, no direct hostility just then; but no enthusiasm whatsoever . The people were evidently quite unprepared, quite unwilling to see in the uniformed figure , whose burning words had thrilled them again and again elsewhere a figure of significance to the country”
But if the mood of the crowd at the GPO was one of sullen indifference the feeling by the end of the week was one of anger towards the rebels . With tens of thousands of Irishmen serving in the British army the reaction of many of their relatives was to display animosity towards the defeated insurgents . The GPO garrison were taken through enraged crowds who showered them with rotten vegetables . They were marched to the Richmond barracks and ran a gauntlet of vicious abuse . Many of the women of Dublin waved their husbands and sons British Army allotment papers in the Republicans faces . They pointed to the British Crown crest on the pension books and taunted the Volunteers with the jibe “ we don’t bite the hand that feeds us” , much to the amusement of the British Tommies . It all amounted to a sad , soul destroying finale for the Republican and socialist idealists . The conclusion of the episode though had still to come .
The British Commander in Chief General Maxwell dispatched the following communiqé to Asquith the British Prime Minister .
“In view of the gravity of the Rebellion and its connections with German intrigue and propaganda and in view of the great loss of life and destruction of property resulting therefrom , the General Officer Commanding in Chief, Irish Command, has found it imperative to inflict the most sever sentences upon the organisers of this detestable Rising and on the commanders who took an actual part in the actual fighting which occurred . It is hoped that these examples will be sufficient to act as a deterrent to intriguers and to bring home to them that the murder of His Majesty’s subjects or other acts calculated to imperil the safety of the realm will not be tolerated .”
The news of the subsequent executions, in particular the manner of Connollys execution outraged Irish public opinion . In a famous phrase the mood of the Irish people was captured “like watching a stream of blood coming from beneath a closed door” . The IRB assessment and calculation in the aftermath of Edward VIIs’ visit in 1903 would prove to be accurate .The shift in public opinion came with astonishing speed . The first prominent voice raised in protest was that of George Bernard Shaw . In a letter to the Daily News in London , written two days before Connolly’s death, he said he “could not regard as a traitor any Irishman taken in a fight for Irish Independence against the British government which was a fair fight in everything except the enormous odds my countrymen had to face” . John Dillon of the Irish Nationalist Party rose at Westminster and said “ I declare most solemnly that I am proud of those men”
Likewise the fortitude and dignity displayed by the Irish Republicans as they faced the British Courts Martial and firing squads did not fail to make an impact on their captors . One of the judges , who sentenced Pearse to death, was moved to pay him tribute that evening . The Countess of Fingal, in her diaries and memoirs stated how “ General Blackadder who is president of the Courts Martial dines with us sometimes . He came to dinner tonight greatly depressed . I asked him “what is the matter ?” He answered “ I have just done one of the hardest things I have ever had to do . I have had to condemn to death one of the finest characters that I have ever come across . There must be something very wrong in the state of things that makes a man like that a rebel . I don’t wonder that his pupils adored him”
Although they succeeded in helping to transform Irish public opinion the ultimate political aims and ideals of the 1916 patriots have still not been realised . The power and influence of the twin evils they confronted - imperialism and capitalism - continue to exert their malevolent power and influence in the Ireland of today . A verification of this fact was provided by the Bush/Blair war summit on Iraq , held in this country just a few short years ago . By the presence of these imperialist war criminals here in this country the Irish people were forced to endure and witness the desecration of our national territory , the denigration of our sovereignty as a people and any notion of our political autonomy ; the contemptuous dismissal of our protests and the humiliating spectacle of Irelands political representatives , amont them those who declare themselves the heirs of Connolly and Pearse , slavishly joining the queue for a photocall and handshake with two bloodsoaked imperialist warmongers .How would Pearse and Connolly have reacted to that nauseating spectacle ? How would those men react to William Martin Murphys’ re-incarnation Sir Anthony O’Reillys boasts that because he owns 35% of the Irish media he can force Irish politicians to give him the Irish peoples oil and gas resources for nothing to do with as he pleases ? How would they react to the Chairman of Shell oil , Lord Oxburghs boasts to his shareholders that the Mayo farmers protecting their homes would soon be dealt with by a servile police and judiciary enabling them to rob our countrys and childrens wealth without hindrance ? Pearses own words give us an indication -
We will try it out with you,
Ye that have harried and held,
Ye that have bullied and bribed,
Tyrants, hypocrites, liars
The military failure of the 1916 Rising proved to be less significance than the effect of its impact upon the mindset of the Irish people . It was the expression in action of an idea essentially spiritual, the translation of an old and vital aspiration into living history . During Easter week 1916 the historic Irish nation was reborn . For the men and women who shared in that illustrious deed , Padraig Mac Piarais, in one of his last messages asked for the remembrance of Ireland , present and to come .He did not ask in vain . The task of the National 1916 Commemoration Committee is to ensure that continues to be the case throughout the run up to the centenary of this nationally defining anniversary . The tyrants , hypocrites and liars cannot be allowed to misrepresent everything 1916 stood for to the Irish people and subvert the vision of Pearse and Connolly - a sovereign , independent, democratic and socialist Irish Republic .
They shall be remembered forever,
They shall be alive forever,
They shall be speaking forever,
The people shall hear them forever .
“ To soldiers,
….let us remind you of what you have done. For the first time in 700 years the flag of free Ireland floats triumphantly over Dublin city…”
28th April 1916
“Wasn’t it a full life Lily, and isn’t this a good end?….the Socialist will never understand why I am here . They will all forget I am an Irishman”
James Connolly (to his wife)
May 11th , 1916
“ We seem to have lost . We have not lost . To refuse to fight would have been to lose; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past and handed on a tradition to the future …..If you strike us down now , we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland . You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom .”
PH Pearse Shot in Dublin May 3rd
Tom Clarke Shot in Dublin May 3rd
Thomas MacDonagh Shot in Dublin May 3rd
Joseph Plunkett Shot in Dublin May 4th
Edward Daly Shot in Dublin May 4th
William Pearse Shot in Dublin May 4th
Michael O’Hanrahan Shot in Dublin May 4th
John MacBride Shot in Dublin May 5th
Eammon Ceantt Shot in Dublin May 8th
Michael Mallin Shot in Dublin May 8th
Con Colbert Shot in Dublin May 8th
Sean Heuston Shot in Dublin May 8th
Thomas Kent Shot in Cork May 9th
Sean MacDermott Shot in Dublin May 12th
James Connolly Shot in Dublin May 12th
Roger Casement hanged in Pentonville August 3rd
“ My own view is that those men who were shot in cold blood after their capture or surrender were prisoners of war, and that it was entirely incorrect to slaughter them…I remain an Irishman and am bound to contradict any implication that that I can regard as a traitor any Irishman taken in a fight for Irish independence against the British government , which was a fair fight in everything except the enormous odds my countrymen had to face”
Soldiers of the Irish Citizens Army
behind the barricades
the shattered and gutted remnants of the GPO
Pearses surrender on behalf of the insurgent forces