Tag Archives: 1916 Centenary

Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration united all at the GPO

We measure ourselves by special birthdays, 13, 18, 21, 30 and so on. We attend annual commemorations and they blend into one another, that is until the special ones – the magic numbers – come around.

When I was seventeen I stood at the corner of the GPO and Henry Street. It was the day of the 50th anniversary of the 1916 revolution. Two stands flanked the portico of the GPO, each full of the surviving 1916 revolutionaries, by now old men and old women.

1966 GPO commemoration

Just up above me I could see Ernie Nunan who had been a 17 year-old London Volunteer, and a member of the GPO Garrison. I was with his son Jim, my best mate at school. My Volunteer grandfather wasn’t in the stand. He had died in 1940 rescuing a young woman from the sea at the Shelly Banks, and I felt I was representing him.

1966 commemoration Henry St corner

1966 commemoration Henry St corner

I remember thinking of the significance of the 50th anniversary, and wondering if I would make it to the centenary, and wanting to. 100 is one of those magic numbers.

I made it. On April 24th 2016, Republic Day, the magic number rolled around.

If the actual anniversary of the revolution in 2010 had been marked by a proper commemoration organised by someone else I would have happily stood at the corner of the GPO and Henry Street again in 2016. But nothing was organised and that is how the Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day was started – to cover that outrageous omission. Each year since, a group of citizens has marked that date with a proper commemoration under the Republic Day banner.

But the centenary commemoration had to be different, in scale and content. In spite of impediments thrown up by others we held firm, refusing to be squeezed out, not because of hubris or ego, but because we offered what others didn’t, a neutral space capable of being occupied by all as equal citizens, provided they were prepared to set their politics or differences aside for a short time so as to concentrate on the real purpose of a commemoration, that is to remember and honour those from another time who are worthy of being commemorated.

Nobody should feel inhibited about attending a 1916 commemoration because of their politics or religion or skin-colour, or because of factional differences with others. That would fly in the face of the principles on which a republic is founded – Liberty, Equality and Solidarity – and because the republic is the property of the people – all of the people. And so neutral space is necessary, particularly if we are also commemorating the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, given political and/or factional differences that exist.

I know that that worked. Looking out at the assembly I could see citizens I know of different political persuasions or belonging to different factions. All were entitled to be there, to play their part in the commemoration and to be at peace with the moment and the collective of which they were part. The extensive feedback on the day and especially since the commemoration have unanimously endorsed the sense that something special was experienced by all, that any differences had been put to one side, and that all present were unified, standing shoulder to shoulder as equals, paying tribute to the men and women of 1916.

In 50 years time, some of the children and teenagers who were present on Republic Day 2016 will again assemble at the GPO for the 150th anniversary of the 1916 revolution. The torch has been passed to them.

 

Our street

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who contributed on stage; Adrian Dunbar, Ruan O’Donnell, Marie Mulholland, Lorcán O’Coileáin, Rita Fagan, Fergus Russell, Proinsias O Rathaille, Danny Healy and Mary Stokes – and to the Colour Party of Paul Callery, James Langton, Pól De Pléimeann, Dáithí O’Cuinn, Brendan Hickey and Pauline Mc Caul. Shane Stokes provided a lot of support, including the live-streaming of the commemoration for the benefit of those who could not be with us, and photographing it on my behalf. Thank you to all. Comrades!

But it is the citizens who participate who really make a commemoration valid and true, and so thank you to all who attended. As I said in my closing remarks, I think we managed to create a mini Irish Republic at the GPO for at least 45 minutes on Republic Day, although I think that mood continued for the rest of the day. As Adrian Dunbar said later, perhaps we opened a gap into a space that people can occupy where differences aren’t a roadblock to progress. That is what being a citizen of a true republic should be like.

Let’s now work to create the full-scale Irish Republic without delay, for the benefit of all.

We can do that. First imagine, then believe, then act. We’ll use ideas and words and listening and persuasion instead of bullets.

That way we can arrive at the Irish Republic. What a beautiful destination that will be.

Video of live-stream of the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration

Adrian Dunbar - Compere

Adrian Dunbar – Compere

Ruan O'Donnell

Ruan O’Donnell

Marie Mulholland

Marie Mulholland

Lorcan Collins

Lorcan Collins

Fergus Russell 'The Foggy Dew'

Fergus Russell ‘The Foggy Dew’

Rita Fagan reads the Proclamation

Rita Fagan reads the Proclamation

Proinsias O Rathaille

Proinsias O Rathaille

Colour Party Paul Callery

Colour Party Paul Callery

Colour Party 2

Colour Party 2

Colour Party 1

Colour Party 1

Danny Healy The Last Post & Reveille

Danny Healy The Last Post & Reveille

Mary Stokes, singer Amhrán na bhFiann

Mary Stokes, singer Amhrán na bhFiann

Tom Stokes

Tom Stokes

Tom Stokes closing words

Tom Stokes closing words

It's A Wrap

It’s A Wrap

 

 


Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration on Republic Day 2016

On the 100th anniversary of the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the commencement of the 1916 Revolution on April 24th 1916, there will be a Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration at the GPO in Dublin from 11.15 to 12 Noon – to the day and the hour of that seminal moment in modern Irish history.

Organised by the Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day, and free of political party or political group influence, the commemoration is designed to facilitate citizens and those who have chosen to be among us to unite for the purpose of paying tribute to the men and women of 1916 who imagined a far better future for us in a true republic of equals, and who were prepared to offer their lives to achieve that.

A commemoration is about remembering people and/or events from another time. In this case it is about looking back to 1916 and to the revolutionary act that began the road to independence, and to those who had the courage and generosity to take a stand in support of the Irish Republic even though that meant confronting the most powerful empire in the world at that time.

A commemoration of 1916, such as this, cannot be about us, or the time we live in, or failures to live up to the vision contained in the Proclamation by any and all governments since 1922. Its focus, for the 45 minute duration of the commemoration, must be solely on 1916.

Given that a proper commemoration must have a period of reflection, a short programme hosted by Adrian Dunbar will include three speakers: historian and biographer of Patrick Pearse, Ruan O’Donnell, will speak on the origins of Irish republicanism among Belfast Protestants in the 1790s and the republican continuum up to 1916; women’s rights activist and biographer of Dr Kathleen Lynn, Marie Mulholland, will speak on the women of 1916; 1916 historian and biographer of James Connolly, Lorcan Collins, will speak on the revolutionaries of 1916, particularly the rank-and-file, and on the contribution of the people of the inner-city tenements to the revolution.

Singer Fergus Russell will provide a bridge between the reflective part of the commemoration and the formal part with his rendition of an iconic song about the revolution.

The formal elements necessary to a proper commemoration of 1916 include: the reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic by political, community and women’s rights activist Rita Fagan; the laying of a wreath on behalf of the people by Proinsias O Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly; the raising of the flags of the Irish Republic, the Starry Plough, Cumann na mBan, na Fianna, and the Tricolour by Volunteer and Citizen Army reenactors led by Paul Callery; The Last Post and Reveille played by trumpeter Danny Healy; and the singing of the National Anthem, led by singer Mary Stokes, which will bring the commemoration to a close.

A great deal of care has been taken to ensure that the centenary commemoration will adhere to the three principles of commemoration – recognition, reflection and respect. It is expected that all present will want to  honour the men and women of 1916, putting all present day differences to one side for the short duration of the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration at the GPO which should act as common ground as we pay tribute to, and focus on, that golden generation who gave so much for us at great cost to them.

The organisers of the commemoration are just facilitators. The act of commemorating is performed by all who are in attendance. It is they who, after this once-ever experience since there is only one centenary of 1916 on the day and to the hour, should be able to disperse knowing that they have been part of a memorable experience and that they have played their full part in collectively paying proper tribute to the men and women of 1916.

Then, let us be inspired to put that beautiful model of the true republic contained in the Proclamation back in place.

That would be the enduring tribute to the men and women of 1916.

 

 


RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ – truth and ethics be damned

There is a convention that should normally apply to critics reviewing art, drama, etc. of trying to find some element worthy of praise even in a review which is necessarily harsh in general terms. In the case of RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ series, that is difficult, given the overall awfulness of this entire enterprise.

So yes, of course, the actors did their best, one presumes, with the material they were given to work with – the lines that were written for their characters, and the directions given them by the series’ director. And yes, the wardrobe team, and hair and makeup, and set dressers and the other functionaries in the process presumably did their best, and some of it was good. But that is not enough.

A film or a TV drama or a staged play depends in the first place on a script, including the premise on which it is grounded. As the ideas develop the script will have a central plot and a series of sub-plots that weave through the narrative, all of which have to be tied up by the end. Crucially, it will also have its main characters – the protagonist (hero) who has a need or goal, and the antagonist (villain) who blocks the achievement of that need or goal. Think of Neil Jordan’s ‘Collins’, Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’, or Dorothy and the Wicked Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. We all understand this aspect of story-telling, partly through instinct and life experience and partly because we implicitly know the structure of story-telling. Good guy, bad guy, and the journey towards resolution.

Presented as it was, Rebellion’ failed hopelessly on these essential elements. Who was the protagonist? Who was the antagonist?

Yes, the protagonist can be a group of people, but that group has to have a common objective – a goal or a need. Given that this series is supposed to be about three young women with the 1916 revolution playing out as moving wallpaper behind their stories, what is their common goal? I can’t see it. And who is the antagonist? Given the surface story, the three women, it cannot be the British Empire except in the case of one of them and partly in the case of another. Is it the patriarchal culture in which they live? If so, the revolution is an unnecessary diversion from the story that needs to be told, since its mission to create an egalitarian society is never teased out. Instead, the revolutionaries are presented, particularly in the form of Patrick Pearse, as being arch-Catholic and conservative, essentially no different to the status quo in terms of attitudes to women, so why bother with the revolution at all?

But the scriptwriter has another crucial task to do if he/she is going to create a credible  and engaging drama, and that is in the creation of characters that ring true to the audience, that we care about, that we gradually understand in terms of the goal or need and where in the character’s psychology that springs from. What character flaw do each carry into the story which they must overcome in order to achieve their goal or need? It is a job that simply must be done, to construct a back-story for the character so that even before we first see and hear them on stage or on screen they already exist in a complete form. An actor can work with that, but not without it.

That, Colin Teevan has utterly failed to do. He has shown us three young women who are at best half-formed in dramatic terms. I could not bring myself to care about any of them, and as the series went on it became obvious that the three-women story was just a soap-opera device, and an opportunity to divert our attention from the potential excitement of the real story of the 1916 revolution.

And in the story of the revolution, and more importantly the revolutionary characters, Teevan failed even more dismally. A character’s backstory has to be true and credible whether a fictional character, but even more so when it is based on a real, once-living, person. For a writer to use the stage, film or television to traduce the character of a real person, and to do it gratuitously as in the case of his portrayal of Patrick Pearse is reprehensible, unprofessional and worthy of outright condemnation regardless of one’s attitude to Patrick Pearse. Pearse lived, had a unique character as we all do, harboured a set of ideas, worked in the world in a variety of political and social ways, had friends and enemies, had a goal and a need which was to free Ireland from the clutches of the empire and to replace it with an enlightened modern republic, penned his name to a very progressive Proclamation and in the process knowingly signed his own death warrant. But that is not the Pearse that Teevan and his collaborators want us to see and to know.

Would that we could sue Teevan and his collaborators for slandering a dead man, because that slander was perpetrated knowingly, and carefully planned as part of the overall noxious enterprise. Prominent among those collaborators is Jane Gogan, RTE’s Head of Drama. Gogan has received high-quality training in screen-writing via the New York University screen-writing course presented at UCD in 1995. I know that because I also attended that superb course. There is simply no excuse for her not to have insisted on great care being taken in the creation of fictional characters and plot construction, but particularly in the truthful representation of a living or once-living person. The ethics of screenwriting demands that.

And ethics must form part of our evaluation of this series. It is unethical to portray the actions and the motivations of a set of historical characters, from the leaders to the rank-and-file in a revolution, in a way that runs counter to known fact. It is unethical to distort fact in such a way as to manipulate public sentiment towards a part of the history that the public not only shares but owns. The 1916 revolution is part of the backstory of each of us as individuals and of us as a collective, whether we acknowledge it or not, or whether we take one side or the other. It represents the facts of a past from which we have emerged and around which we have been culturally moulded.

When a social/political class interferes in a significant way – outside of the acceptable expression of opposing opinions – by altering facts or deliberately misrepresenting key figures so as to manipulate our understanding of history and therefore the backstory to the world we live in today, then that becomes a political act, an act of altering our perceptions through propaganda so as to suit the political and social exigencies of this moment in time and future time as they affect the privileged status of members of the political class.

I have no doubt at all that this dreadful series was concocted to be what it is – a shallow soap-opera that provides the vehicle for portraying the 1916 revolution in a very bad light – at a series of meetings, which I have outlined in a previous review of an episode. Those meetings included senior personnel from the publicly funded State broadcaster, and involved the spending of about €6 million of our money on a production that disseminates highly negative and counter-factual propaganda against a key moment in our history and its central characters.

It is not difficult to discern just who is intended to be the beneficiary of that publicly funded propaganda. It is of course the counter-revolutionary class, the political class, to which those who created this series belong and from membership of which class they benefit in terms of continuation of power, privilege, and wealth. It is the counter-revolutionary class that is challenged by the facts of history and the true characters of the leaders and the rank-and-file of the revolution.

And we can’t have that.

Truth, and ethics, be damned.

 

 


RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ – slandering heroes while creating dross

‘Rebellion’ episode 4.

Well, it doesn’t get much lower than this.

Patrick Pearse, so as to ensure his own execution, is portrayed in this dreadful travesty of the 1916 Revolution as a man willing to guarantee the execution of his fellow signatories to the Proclamation to achieve that end.

The writer and executive producer of this farcical production, Colin Teevan, deserves to be the subject of public opprobrium and ostracism. This was the final indicator in a series of indicators of his intention to portray Pearse in the worst light possible – as a self-centred and evidently insane psychopath. He laid the groundwork for that in each of the scenes in which Pearse appeared from the first episode to tonight’s.

The truth is that Pearse was a complex man, but an honourable one. He was not driven by ego, but by a desire to enhance the lives of others – his considerable work in the area of education at great financial cost to himself bears that out. But the makers of this series have worked by the dictum of never letting the truth get in the way of a lucrative and politically slanted story.

Although Teevan bears much of the responsibility for what is in the first place the writer’s creation, there are others who also bear responsibility. A television series such as this involves an initial proposal, commissioning process, a set of script editors and researchers / historical advisers, producers and a production team, and a director and his team.

Jane Gogan, RTE’s Head of Drama, should be made to carry the can on behalf of the State broadcaster – but that won’t happen. She may well be promoted, RTE being RTE.

The producers Zodiak Media Ireland and Touchstone – in association with Element Pictures – all had oversight of this series, and of the script-writing process. That Element Pictures, with all of their experience – including working with Ken Loach on Jimmy’s Hall – should have put their name to this is a very black mark against their judgement, at least as far as I am concerned.

Somebody made the decision to employ a director from Finland, a man who could not be expected to either know or have much interest in the details of the revolution, including the characters of its principal players. And so his culpability is less than those who chose him for the job. But even so, his direction of this series has been markedly poor – creatively and technically.

Bad enough that it is a mess. It is like watching a car crash in slow motion when we might see that if the driver took corrective action the crash might be avoided. But no. Jane Gogan saw the series before it was cleared to be aired, and so did dozens of others, from high-ranking RTE personnel to producers and distributors. None of them cried ‘Halt!’.

Jane Gogan tried to insert a get-out-of-jail clause in the RTE press release announcing the production. She said – “Rebellion will tell personal stories which are intertwined with the political events of the time. However, it is a drama, not a history lesson, and our story is told from the perspectives of a group of fictional characters who live through the political events of 1916. Men, women and children from Belfast, Dublin and London – people whose lives were irrevocably changed by this extraordinary period.”

That won’t wash. ‘Rebellion’ is a drama that is played out around an event that occurred and which is heavily documented – the before, the during, and the after. It is designed to be RTE’s flagship production to mark the centenary of the event that occurred and it brings that history into play – although warping it in the process, and it brings key characters into play – although warping their input and their very characters in the process.

This is indeed a drama, but one which is based on the foundational narrative of independent Ireland, the key narrative in modern Irish history, and so Jane Gogan is being entirely disingenuous by trying to use that get-out-of-jail clause. It is not Love/Hate or Glenroe. It should not be wholly fiction, although it has turned out to be.

There were a number of decisions which were quite obviously consciously made. One was to adopt the revisionist take on 1916 which in its more extreme versions has been largely discredited. Another was to traduce the characters of real people. Yet another was to swamp the story of 1916 in the centenary year in a drama largely about the comings and goings of of establishment families and characters.

Those are political decisions and they were made by people who are embedded in the political class.

It is dreadful so far, and it is going to get even worse.

Mark my words again.


RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ series, and its propaganda value

There are occasions in life when time that can never be retrieved is expended on something that is worthless. So far, three valuable hours of my life has been wasted on what RTE describes as a ‘commemorative drama’ to herald the beginning of the Centenary year of the 1916 revolution. Wasted, other than in terms of understanding the propaganda value to the political class even of badly constructed ‘historical’ costume drama – although describing ‘Rebellion’ as coherent drama is stretching it.

I quibbled after the first episode about the use of the term ‘Rebellion’ instead of the more accurate term ‘Revolution’, but it finally dawned on me with Episode 3 that what the writer, director and producers really mean is that this is about rebelliousness within the featured families, to which the 1916 Revolution is just a backdrop.

It would be a useful exercise after the series comes to an end to put a stopwatch to good use to work out the proportion of the five hours of screen-time that is devoted to an exceedingly poor and skewed telling of the story of the 1916 Revolution, and what proportion was used to tell the confusing, intertwined, and fairly inconsequential stories of domestic disagreement. There is of course a market for the latter, and for its setting in a sort of ‘upstairs-downstairs’ genre, but this series, more soap than serious drama, should not be its vehicle.

The 1916 Revolution – what was it really about, who made up the rank-and-file – essential to the creation of a revolution, what scale of operation was in play, what impediments to success existed? Nobody can be any the wiser by relying on this series.

The leaders – who were they, what were they like, what did they believe in, was there a plan, had they some endgame, some vision? Nobody can be any the wiser by relying on this series.

Where is Tom Clarke, or Seán MacDiarmada, or Joe Plunkett, three iconic signatories of the Proclamation, all present in the GPO – but not so far in this sorry series? No clue as to their characters, and precious little of James Connolly’s – relegated to a bit part, or of Patrick Pearse’s – other than his addiction to prayer, his deference to the clergy, his obsession with blood sacrifice, and a capacity for rhetorical exaggeration – as RTE would have us believe.

Where is the evidence of strong public support particularly in the impoverished inner city tenements, without which the revolution could not have lasted almost a week? We know it was there, we who have bothered to acquaint ourselves with the true narrative. Instead, that hoary old myth of widespread public disaffection with the revolution is hammered home at every opportunity.

Episode 3 begins with some bearded chap being put up against a wall and shot by firing squad. Who was he? We are none the wiser by the end of Episode 3. Why might it be important to know that he was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a journalist, an advanced-feminist, a pacifist who had played no part in the revolution itself? Because, perhaps, that it is true, and that he was murdered on the command of a crazed, out-of-control British army officer – an essential detail of the 1916 narrative – but not as the masses are supposed to know it since it would upset the entirely revisionist slant of this television disaster, a revisionism that is deliberately applied. And so it goes on.

Against fleeting scenes of chaos, created as we are led to believe by violent anti-democratic nutcases hell-bent on creating a Catholic state, we are encouraged to note the stabilising influence and the manners and the etiquette of both the Irish ‘Castle Catholics’ and their British masters in Dublin Castle. Fast-forward by 100 years and we see the same spurious choice being presented to the people by the political class – ‘stability’ or ‘chaos’, white or black, good or bad. No need to tease out what each side really stood for back then, or what each side stands for now.

There are those who ask ‘what matter – it is only TV drama?’. Propaganda is at its most effective when it is inserted subtly into the thought-processes of its target audience, and repeated through various forms from news and current affairs, commentary, and yes, entertainment. That works, as Joseph Goebbels knew all too well.

RTE claims an audience of 600,000 for its first episode of ‘Rebellion’. A large proportion of these will vote in the upcoming general election in which the main choice will be between, the political class tells us, stability or chaos. And that audience is also entering into the centenary year of the 1916 revolution with its competing interpretations, one of which champions the Redmondite parliamentarian Home Rule option over the other – the right of a people to self-determination and self-government, to be established through revolution where no other viable option was available. Presenting a partisan and therefore skewed version of the 1916 revolution primes at least a part of that audience to adopt a negative view of the legitimacy of that revolution and of its leaders, and that represents a highly political intervention in the popular history of 1916 on the part of the State broadcaster, RTE. It is not, presented in that way, just TV drama.

‘Rebellion’ looks like a cheap production, but cost as much as Ken Loach spent making The Wind That Shakes The Barley – an excellent production for the big screen, which grossed three times its production costs at the international box-office. Why wasn’t Loach asked to make this series? It is not as if he lacks experience. But then, he could be relied on to create a credible narrative around the main story of revolution and to consign the less consequential sub-plots to their rightful places. That would not suit the political class, including its RTE functionaries.

The 1916 revolution is an intriguing, exciting and rich human story, as rich in dramatic potential – characters, incidents and plot-lines – as was the highly successful and accurate 1913 Lockout TV drama ‘Strumpet City’, produced by RTE in 1980. ‘Rebellion’ on the other hand is dross. Some people, their names figuring prominently on the credits of each episode, opted for dross, and each received a considerable reward tor taking that option.

The foundational narrative of modern Ireland – in which the 1916 Revolution is the inciting incident – deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect. That is entirely absent in this spurious version.

There are times when we remark that ‘you couldn’t make it up’. The series writer did, with input from others.

And there are times when we remark that ‘it couldn’t get any worse’. Oh yes it can, and it will.

Of that I am certain.


The deliberate disaster that is RTE’s ‘Rebellion’

The flagship TV programme offered by State broadcaster RTE to mark the centenary of the 1916 revolution is a five-part series, ‘Rebellion’. Better that RTE had decided to do nothing. Here are my reactions to the first two episodes, formed immediately after each episode was broadcast.

January 3rd – Episode 1

Yes, I am a quibbler, but only when I think something is important enough to warrant quibbling about. A significant series by the State broadcaster about the seminal event of modern Irish history in its centenary is important enough since for many Irish people it may provide the main information they have, in a country which teaches modern Irish history so poorly (not by accident!).

First – The title of the series. Words are very important since they carry meaning. 1916 was not about a simple ‘rebellion’ – a refusal of obedience or order – but was about much more; a profound change in government, constitution and social order which should be described as ‘revolution’. Using terms such as ‘rebellion’, ‘rising’ or ‘insurrection’ downplays the event, which is why the British used those terms, and later, the counter-revolutionaries who took power. The series should be called ‘Revolution’, but maybe that is a bridge too far for the reactionaries in RTE.

Second – whoever cast Camille O’Sullivan as Constance Markeivicz was surely taking the piss. Leaving aside her talent as an actress, casting her in that part is like casting Oliver Hardy as Stan Laurel. Appearances do matter, particularly in an historical costume drama. Markievicz’s physical appearance bears no resemblance whatever to O’Sullivan’s.

Third – whoever wrote Markievicz’s introductory scene, and the lines and actions she was given, was taking the double-piss. Markievicz was anything but unhinged, but that is what various revisionists – Eoghan Harris, Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Ann Matthews and others would have us believe. That scene traduced the character of Markievicz and is simply unbelievable to anyone who has researched Markievicz, which is what the scriptwriter should have done.

Apart from that, for the most part the set-up, which is what the first episode of a drama series is, was reasonably good. Of course there is another quibble – Dublin in 1916 had the worst slums in Europe, and why the director didn’t make sure to show it as a filthy tip in those slum areas, with emaciated adults and children, is beyond me. Given the social conditions the poor find themselves living in today it is not as if it would be difficult to find both emaciated adults and children as a backdrop. Why is that important? Because it gives context to the revolution in terms of extreme social conditions. It gives the revolution meaning and legitimacy.

Last quibble. I know costume drama series are expensive to make, but this is RTE’s big contribution to the centenary year in terms of drama. I understand that there have to be ad-breaks, and I can live with that. But why the hell does a series about such an important part of our history have to be commercialised to the extent that it is sponsored by Kia, to promote their Sportage model? It seems unnecessarily crass to me. It should be sponsored by us, through the licence we pay, and the excessive taxes that the poorer among us pay which bolster the wealth of the political class.

But then I am a quibbler.

When it is important to be.

January 10th – Episode 2

More than a quibble this week about RTE’s revisionist offering for the 1916 Centenary.

Did the writer, Colin Teevan, set out to write ahistorical shite, or was it accidental ignorance? Virtually nothing in this second episode bears any resemblance to the facts of the opening day of the revolution, nor do the characterisations of key individuals such as Pearse, Connolly or Kathleen Lynn have any grounding in known and indisputable fact.

Connolly is virtually mute, a mere spectator, despite the fact that he commanded the revolutionary forces in Dublin and was never in his life a passive bystander.

Pearse was a Catholic, but here he is portrayed as an altar-muncher, hurling himself to his knees at any opportunity. Nowhere is there a hint of his intellect, of his advanced ideas on education which was what his school was about. Instead it is a training ground for young ‘rebels’, with a bomb factory in the basement. Pearse was anything but one-dimensional, but that is how he is portrayed.

Lynn, a medical doctor, was the one who attended Sean Connolly, the Commandant of the City Hall Garrison, on the roof of City Hall when he was shot within a couple of minutes of the buildings occupation by the Citizen Army. He died virtually instantly. He certainly didn’t have any conversations before doing so.

The revolution was, according to Teevan, a Catholic enterprise, complete with the Archbishop’s representative in the GPO doling out absolutions and leading rosaries. Let’s lump Kathleen Lynn in there, and Constance Markievicz, both Protestants – and they were not by a long shot the only Protestant revolutionaries. Let’s forget about the explicitly anti-sectarian ideal contained in the Proclamation, or the guarantee of religious liberty.

Teevan has a Volunteer and a Cumann na mBan woman roaming the streets shooting at looters. That is a lie, plain and simple.

There has been no attempt so far to explain the motivations behind the revolution apart from the need to break the link with the coloniser. Without those motivations being referred to the revolution is just an amateurish enterprise inspired by nationalistic grievance. A brief conversation between Connolly and Tom Clarke (absent) or Sean MacDiarmada (absent), or even Pearse, who is at least present if only as a caricature, would in a couple of minutes of dramatic screen-time inform the audience as to why those with the most to lose – workers and their families and the lower middle class – would be prepared to wager their lives for a revolution, for what was at stake.

The Dublin Castle man fucks a young Irish woman and makes her pregnant, and she loves him – what a crass metaphor to use for the relationship between the British administration in the Castle and the colonised nation.

Does any of this matter? Did the works of the various revisionist historians, most of them politically motivated, matter? Of course, since skewing the narrative to fit a political imperative as the political class sees it creates an ahistorical account, the story of what didn’t happen, or of the motivations that weren’t present, or of the character defects that weren’t there. Portray the revolutionaries as blood-lust Catholics engaged in a crazy enterprise, and that is all the public need to know. Portray the Castle Catholics as refined Downton Abbey types, show the children of the tenements as chubby-faced shoe-wearing healthy kids, and who in their right mind would want a revolution?

Move on to next item on the agenda, in this great little country in which to do business.

This is dreadful stuff, which will be watched by several hundred thousand citizens, many of whom, due to our poxy education system with history relegated to the margins, know so little about the true story as to be easily influenced into believing this shite.

So, I am past quibbling. I am now in the business of ousting this rotten political class which manipulates public opinion in order to maintain power.

And have no doubt about it – this series from RTE is not about representing 1916 fairly, it is about manipulating public opinion.

Eoghan Harris lives on in RTE.


Take It Down from the Mast

There is, to my mind, something very obscene about the State organising a flag-hoisting ceremony at Dublin Castle, supposedly to mark the beginning of the 1916 Centenary year, while the same State routinely thrashes the public services and the public works that so many citizens depend on – often for their lives.

This charade is nothing but a necessary PR exercise mounted on the instructions of two parties, Fine Gael and Labour, which have been forced by the weight of public opinion to appear to be engaged with honouring the seminal moment in modern Irish history – the revolution of 1916.

How could two avowedly counter-revolutionary parties, with another counter-revolutionary party, Fianna Fáil, waiting in the wings, credibly honour those whose vision of a real republic has been deliberately thrashed by those same parties?

It is impossible. More than that, it is a disgusting display of contempt by self-serving hypocrites for the ideals and the idealism of 1916 and the subsequent revolutionary period, and contempt for the people those ideals were supposed to serve – the citizens of Ireland and those who have come to live among us and are part of us.

Those three parties, representative of a political class slaked with lust for power and wealth, have ensured that a third of our people endure dreadful conditions of need and insecurity and unhappiness – from visible poverty including homelessness and literal starvation of children, to unemployment, emigration, chronic illness both mental and physical, early death caused by rampant suicide and undiagnosed or untreated illness, and the list of dreadful conditions goes on and on. But no tangible evidence of concern from the political class.

Today, we see thousands of our people wading through rivers to reach their water-logged homes in an attempt to rescue something of value to themselves. They will continue to wade, through false promises made in the coming election. It has always been thus, since the counter-revolution of 1922.

Meanwhile, those three parties have ensured that the pockets of the wealthy – the political class – are stuffed with our hard-got money. It has always been thus, since the counter-revolution of 1922.

As a 1916 relative I am seemingly entitled, in a way that other citizens are not, to be present at State ceremonies to do with 1916.

I reject that spurious entitlement. I refuse to participate in these charades. I refuse to give cover to those who hate the very idea of the Republic while attempting to secure public approval for their vile project of continuing to administer a grossly unequal and unjust State while pretending to draw on history for their existence.

As a 1916 relative I disown the spurious ‘Republic’ of Ireland. I am a citizen of the Irish Republic – I have been since my first conscious political thought as a child and will be to my last breath.

Today I am filled with disgust.

Tomorrow I will be filled with hope.

Revolution begins in the imagination.

Now we have to imagine.

Imagine the Irish Republic.

Then work now to put it in place.

For the happiness and prosperity of all our people.


Right2Change Trinity – Political, Trade Union, Community – Vital for Victory

It is not fanciful, I think, to offer my grandfather’s contribution to the golden period of the Irish revolution up to 1922 as an exemplar of the need to maintain the structure of the current Right2Change movement with its three pillars – the political pillar, the trade union pillar and the community pillar. Let me explain.

When John Stokes turned up for duty at Ringsend Bridge with ‘D’ company, 3rd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers on Sunday 23rd of April 1916, he was part of the political pillar, albeit giving expression to republican politics through armed intervention against the opposing forces of British imperialism. The Volunteers were stood down that day as a result of MacNeill’s countermanding order, but John was back on the bridge with his comrades the following day to do his duty, and went into action with them in the Boland’s Mills garrison area. That was as much a political action as it was a military one.

When he joined the Volunteers in 1913, that was a political action. When he went to Howth on 26th July 1914 to collect his Mauser rifle from the Asgard, that was a political action. When he and his comrades of the 3rd Battallion drilled on the streets between then and the start of the revolution, that was a political action.

John, a true republican, was part of the political pillar.

John Stokes - D Company 3rd Battalion - Boland's Mills Garrison

John Stokes – D Company 3rd Battalion – Boland’s Mills Garrison

But three years previously, John was part of the trade union pillar. A tram driver (motorman), working for the Dublin United Tramways Company owned by William Martin Murphy, John and his comrades walked off the job on the 26th August 1913, striking for recognition of their right to belong to the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. That trade union action precipitated the 1913 Lockout, but it also provided the spark that would become the flame of revolution, and Liberty Hall would be the key to that, not least in the creation there of the Irish Citizen Army.

John, a committed union man, was part of the trade union pillar.

After 1916, after a spell in Frongoch internment camp, John returned to my grandmother Catherine and their children He was not on active service in the War of Independence or the Civil War, but he and Catherine provided ‘services’ to the republican active service units by way of a safe house for men and weapons, and moving weapons to where they were needed. He said that he had no problem using a weapon on British forces but would not personally use one on his fellow-Irish.

John, together with Catherine, was now part of the community pillar.

Those three interconnected pillars – political, trade union and community – were essential to the success of the revolution between 1916 and its suppression by the Cumann na nGaedheal-Fine Gael counter-revolutionaries in 1923 which continued with the accession to power of de Valera’s Fianna Fáil.

The community pillar was as important in 1913 and in 1916 as the political or trade union pillars. The 1919-21 War of Independence could not have been prosecuted on the republican side without the involvement of a community pillar. And the heroic last stand of enlightenment republicanism between 1922 and 1923 in the Civil War could not have occurred even for that duration without the involvement of a community pillar on its side.

And here we find ourselves again, one hundred years after 1916, ninety-four years after the counter-revolution, attempting to begin the reclamation of that enlightened republic of equality and justice, and relying on those three pillars again as is always the case for any successful revolution – revolution being a fundamental change in political power brought about by the people for their benefit. That, and nothing less, is what we are attempting to bring to pass.

But there are flaws today in each of those pillars, just as there were in 1916. Just as then, those flaws must be overcome.

Today, the political pillar is incomplete. There are those in Leftist parties and groups, and some independents, who have refused to commit fully to the battle to defeat the continuous 94-year-long counter-revolution.

Today, the trade union pillar is incomplete. Some trade unions, bewitched by that odious 1930s corporatist-fascist device of ‘social partnership’ with its origins in Mussolini’s Italy, or led by centre-Right Labour Party ideologues, remain in practical terms supportive of the counter-revolution and in essence opposed to change.

Today, the community pillar includes those who say they eschew politics, or who are overly-protective of their own group’s ethos, or who identify and target spurious bogeymen and bogeywomen within the Right2Change movement for reasons best known to themselves.

Yet in each of those pillars we have enough truly committed groups and individuals to press on towards revolution. There is no other option, other than capitulation, open to us.

James Connolly knew what was required to create a revolution. In his call-to-action in ‘Erin’s Hope’, written in 1897, he pointed out that in order to create a successful revolution it is necessary to gather together all of the voices of discontent, even those with whom you do not find full agreement.

Connolly was correct. And the Right2Change movement is attempting to do what he called for. We are trying to gather all of the voices of discontent to our side so as to achieve through force of argument and not force of arms a transformational change in politics, society and the economy for the benefit of the mass of people.

Whatever the outcome of the 2016 General Election, when we go to the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration of 1916 at the GPO on Republic Day 2016 we need to be able to stand tall, to look the ghosts of 1916 in the eye and say to them and to ourselves that we did our best, and if not good enough to win power for the people this time, we will do better the next.

And let those who try to drag at our heels, who refuse to play their part, who spread calumnies against good people, who try to divide and not unite, hang their heads in shame.

Three pillars – political, trade union, community – working together to create something good and destroy something bad.

As it was in 1916, so let it be in 2016. Revolution!


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