Ever since the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced some months ago that
the State would celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising,
there has been a barrage of criticism from pro-British unionists. This
was to be expected. Irish nationalists regard the Easter rebellion
against Britain and the declaration of the Irish Republic as a key
moment in the fight for freedom, but unionists see it as a “terrorist”
attack on the British in what was then part of the United Kingdom.
Ahern has sought to soften this opposition by linking the
commemoration of the Rising with that of the Somme, the First World
War trench battle in which 50,000 Irishmen died in British army
uniform. Others, such as the Labor Party, have suggested the 1916
event should commemorate the lives of the civilians who died in the
crossfire during the Rising, and the members of the British army who
The debate urgently requires some clear thinking.
Irish people celebrate the Rising not because the leaders died and
happened to be Irish, but because the men and women who participated
put their lives on the line in the cause of Irish freedom.
The idea of commemorating the British soldiers who captured and
executed the Irish leaders is so craven as to be worthy of comment.
The civilians in 1916 died tragically, but by accident and not for any cause.
And as for the Somme, while many Irishmen showed courage while
fighting for the British, the sad reality is that they made a serious
mistake. They ignored the call to fight for “neither king nor Kaiser
but Ireland,” and volunteered for a country whose top brass sacrificed
them in vast numbers, and in vain.
The Irish government should stop apologizing, and simply get on with
celebrating the Easter Rising.