Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ongoing War For Independence

Look how civilized we all are. Inviting the Queen to come and celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising with us. No hard feelings, we're all one big happy family here in Ireland.

Except for those less than happy with the 1922 treaty that kept the six northern counties under British rule. There are many residing there who don't see the rebellion as anywhere near finished.

Is This Fighting Necessary?
 What has Professor Diarmaid Ferriter upset about the invitation extended to the Queen is the fact that the government did not consult the committee that is charged with developing a proper and fitting memorial for the centennial of the uprising. This hundred-year remembrance only comes around once, and you wouldn't want to get it wrong. The history happened already, but it's up to the history professors to frame incidents in a context, to study the nuance and put the rebellion into the frame of its era.

What would happen to all that if the Queen of England shows up with some wreath to lay at the tomb of the rebel leaders who were shot down under the orders of her ancestor's government? No hard feelings, Ireland, and can't we all just get along?

Professor Ferriter is particularly concerned that the Queen's presence might give people the idea that the whole thing was totally unnecessary. England was about to grant Ireland some freedom and allow Home Rule, which was the driving issue behind the rebellion. It was coming, some might say, so all those people lost their lives for nothing. A lot of bloodshed, and then the civil war after that, and it was all a waste of human life.

From there, then, would come the belief that those who sacrificed themselves on Easter Monday, 1916, did so to no purpose. They died for nothing.

And what kind of a centennial celebration would it be, to commemorate a complete waste?

Unfortunately, the State cannot very well un-invite the Queen, who has given every indication that she's delighted to attend the upcoming celebration. That leaves damage control to the historians, who very much want to present the past in a way that does not denigrate those who genuinely believed that the British were all talk and no action when it came to Home Rule.

There is a history there as well, a history of Home Rule bills that passed Commons and were killed in Lords, or Home Rule bills postponed for one reason or another.

That's the context in which the historians wish the rising to be seen. Just because the Queen is coming doesn't mean that context has no significance to the events that followed. It just means that what happened in the past should be remembered, but not used as a weapon to keep a feud going far beyond its natural lifespan.

But then again, there is that whole issue of a united Ireland and the counties of the north that still call Elizabeth II their monarch....

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