Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Easter Rising of 2016

Ireland is gearing up to celebrate its centennial and the State wants to make a big, tourist-appealing splash that also honours those who gave their lives on those few days after Easter in 1916.

Those who gave their lives left living relations behind, and the descendants of those living relations would like a say in how the grand event will unfold. Would you want some politician making a speech about how your ancestor was a blood-thirsty eejit and Ireland would have been given Home Rule after the First World War so the Rising was a pointless loss of life?

Of course not. You would want your people honoured for their sacrifice. The centennial is no time for revisionist history or an insistence that Ireland is a peaceful country. That's forgetting all that went on before 1916. The Land Wars were not peaceful protests and there were more than a few men killed in 1798 and 1803.

A few of those whose family members signed the declaration of independence in 1916 are feeling ignored by the government, and so they have gone and started up their own group to make their own plans. The 1916 Relatives have given up on having their voices heard, so they will shout unofficially while politicians make their speeches to a crowd wondering why the descendants of the nation's founders are off at some other gathering.

Ireland 2016 from Ireland 2016 on Vimeo.

Speaking on behalf of the 1916 Relatives, Patrick Cooney has described the Government's plans as a bit of a shambles, a festival that manages to ignore the people who put their lives on the line by signing a document that declared Ireland to be free. There is more consideration being given to an official visit from Queen Elizabeth than to the presence of James Connolly's great-grandson.

It's grand to show the Brits that we're all friends now, but can't it be done while including the dirty business of an armed insurrection? Remember where we came from? That's not easy to do when the Government's video skips over that bit like it's too shameful to be shown.

The video put together by the Arts Minister is all Bono and Yeats, Mr. Cooney has said, without any references to men like Pearse or Ceannt or Plunkett. Seven men signed a proclamation and seven men were executed for it by the British authorites. Yeats wrote a poem about it, which is about as close to risking his life as he came, but there he is. Don't blink. You'll miss his picture.

In fact, you'd be hard pressed to learn a thing about the Rising from the video, which sprints past a few old photos before flying into the modern era with happy children and pretty scenery. There isn't much of anything in the video to even suggest that there was an actual battle in which men, women and children were killed.

Remember where we came from? A song in Irish isn't exactly remembering. It's more paddywhackery than tribute to the rebels.

So clean. So sanitized.

Is it any wonder that the descendants of the Seven Signatories are off doing their own remembrance? One that has actual memories.

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