We break from our recapping of random BMH entries (more to come at some point) to talk about a recent bit of news.
Fine Gael councillor Kieran Binchy, a member of Dublin City Council, recently attempted to get the following motion passed:
“That this council agrees to commemorate with due dignity, as an integral part of the proposed Moore Street Museum, all lives lost in the 1916 uprising, including the 256 Irish civilians and 153 soldiers in British uniform, 52 of whom were Irish, who died during the uprising, in the interests of respect, tolerance and understanding.”
The motion was defeated by 25 votes to 23, a rejection led primarily by Sinn Fein and other leftist parties (as well as a few Fianna Fail).
What to make of all this? I recently noted some of the attitudes surrounding Moore Street and the proposed redevelopment there, if the professional naysayers will ever be satisfied enough to let the project go ahead (they won’t, ever, they’ll just have to be ignored). There was a sense of trying to downplay the Easter Rising as a military event where, you know, people were actually killed, and I suppose that included people who didn’t wear a uniform and were just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These organisations and parties, the ones who encapsulate Ian Paisley style “No, No No!” politics, feel a special attachment to the Easter Rising, merited or no. But when I say that, I mean the Volunteers, and no one else.
In the case of the civilian casualties of the Easter Rising, the reasons for the ignoring and the deflection are obvious. Both the British Army and the Irish Volunteers killed civilians during the Easter Rising, and allowing that fact to be illustrated or talked about at greater length would inevitable cast a downer on the attempt to glorify and make heroes out of the Irish Volunteers (to an even greater extent than they currently are). Ignore the fact that these things just happen in war, and that casting judgement down upon the Volunteers for it 100 years after the fact would be as pointless as turning them into pure hearted angels.
As, for the British, well, Sinn Fein and their ilk will never be satisfied with anything other than a faceless enemy for the centenary decade. The English are to be despised and hated as much as possible, because a story as simple as the one that they want to tell needs an unadulterated bad guy. Irish soldiers in British uniform? Nope, can’t talk about that. Besides the point. It distracts. It complicates.
Because complication is bad for these people. They need a commemoration that will tie into plans for political theatre, that casts the Easter rebels as the grandsires of the nation, sternly looking down and castigating the government for its faults (unless Sinn Fein happen to be in government in 2016. Watch the narrative change then). They don’t need the moral grey areas peeking in, the uncomfortable facts about civilian dead and Irishman fighting Irishman. Keep it simple. Rebels good, Empire bad. Maybe we call sell it to JJ Abrams as Episode VIII.