Monday, 9 April 2012
Easter 1916 - then and now (oh, and black and white as well)
I've recently been poring over the Irish newspaper accounts written in 1916, in response to the Easter Rising. You can probably guess what they boiled down to. They were agin it. Several of them lamented the damage done to the fine architecture of the city of Dublin. Others were in no doubt that the Rising involved a bunch of dupes - men who were were fighting to assist Britain's enemy, Germany, not Ireland at all. Others believed that the good name of Ireland had been dragged in the mud and would have been lost forever, were it not for the heroic actions of other Irishmen, fighting for the cause of freedom in Europe.
It's all different now, of course. The Easter Rising men are venerated as heroes who laid the foundations of the Irish nation. You got that, did you? Nation. Not state - nation. So we have southern politicians and the Irish army (and Air Corps) involved in ceremonies of reverence and gratitude for the sacrifice the men of 1916 made. Not once - I have a tenner if you can contradict me - not once did any of the Irish government speakers over the last few days mention the gap between the aspirations of the Proclamation towards a 32-county republic and the reality of Ireland today. You may think that's a jolly good thing; you may even regret that the 26 counties were foolish enough to stray from Mother Britain's embrace, and should return there asap. Or you may feel it's important not to mention the north, as doing so might offend unionists. Or maybe like me, you remember George Orwell's 1984, where politicians managed to convince the population, by saying it often enough, that black was literally white, that lies were truth and that war was peace. In our case, the lie to be digested is that the Irish question has at last been settled. And if you believe that, swallowing "Black is white" must be a doddle.