The “Riots” in Dublin on Saturday were about as popular as the 1916 Rising.
All the papers are full of dramatic photos and headlines that scream against those who stopped the “Protestant” or “Unionist” march. The “rioters” are vilified for stoning the Gardai (police). They are criticised for spoiling Dublin’s reputation.
It would be interesting to dig out the Irish papers for Easter 1916.
During and immediately after Easter 1916, the people of Dublin were outraged by the behaviour of Pearce, Connolly et al. There was no popular support for the “Rising”.
At least the people who went on the warpath on Saturday didn’t use guns or kill anyone.
The only good I can see coming out of this is that it might make people think about celebrating the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
Is the country ready to celebrate 1916? Are the 26 counties ready to remember it, in anything other than a partisan way.
We all know that the 1916 Rising was followed by the 1918 election when Sinn Fein swept into a majority. We know that this was followed by the War of Independence which was followed by the Treaty which was followed by the founding of the State etc. In other words we “know” that 1916 led to independence from the British Empire. So it would seem right to celebrate that.
But what we “know” is a myth. Every state that has been formed has its own creation myth, its own story that justifies its formation, that makes it seem as if all history was a lead-up to its birth, and subsequent development.
So too with 1916. It is a central element of the creation myth of RoI (Republic of Ireland).
If the “rioters” of Dublin February 2006 were rounded up and publicly executed, and the catholic church threw all the weight of its experienced PR machine behind the “martyrs”, and this was followed by a “United Ireland”, a new creation myth would be born. The “rioters” would become “freedom fighters”. The day they prevented the “Prods” from marching over sacred ground (past the GPO) would become a day to commemorate.
I don’t think Ireland is yet ready to celebrate the Orange and the Green. The South is readying itself, under government leadership, to celebrate the Green. There are plans for a military parade to emphasise that the army of the South is a direct descendant of 1916.
In 1916, the Citizen’s Army was led by Connolly. He had misgivings about joining in with Pearce, about joining the workers’ army under the same banner as the catholic nationalist one. Finally he joined in and rose together with De Velera, Pearce and the others. But that unity was a unity in unpopularity. The people of Dublin saw the centre of the city torn apart and they were not pleased. Just as the people of Dublin today are lining up to criticise the “thugs” of Saturday.
If only the 90th anniversary of 1916 could be allowed to pass by without a murmer, if only the time could be spent educating everyone to look back and see things from another perspective, the ten years before 2016 would be usefully spent. We might then celebrate the centenary of 1916 without risking greater division.
I think Saturday was a disaster for those who hoped to reach a United Ireland by stealth. It has proved to unionists that
(1) the South is not open to a meeting of both traditions
(2) the government and state apparatus of the South cannot guarantee the safety of people from the other tradition
This will confirm the views of not just DUP supporters, but also the views of those unionists who were hoping against hope that the South had changed, that there was a new Ireland.
This will damage the tourist industry, North and South. All those Welsh rugby supporters going back with photos and word of mouth reports. Would you bring your children to Dublin?
I bet hardly any of the visitors to Dublin knew that there was a march planned to go down O’Connell Street. But if they did, they probably assumed it would be peaceful and well policed. They’d probably forgotten the underbelly of Irish politics and mythmaking.
My instincts had certainly gone off the boil. I didn’t realise how dangerous it was to dream of celebrating 1916.