Tag Archives: revolution

No Privatising of the Rising

The plans were made behind closed doors, the preparations pursued in secret and the mobilisation orders delivered in sealed envelopes. So tightly controlled was the event that on the day just 3,000 people mobilised on the streets outside the GPO – and many of them were accidental observers, with tourists and foreign nationals making up perhaps half of the assembly.

If those people thought that they might play a meaningful part in commemorating the 1916 revolution on its anniversary at the epicentre of the revolution they were wrong. The State had its plan, and ordinary people would play no part in it other than as curious and distant observers. Far better had a countermanding order been issued so that citizens would not be present as insult after insult was heaped on them and on their dreams.

Barriers, barriers everywhere. Private security men patrolled the streets of what passes for a ‘republic’, vying with the State’s own police to hold back sparse numbers of citizens and tourists. It was, of course, necessary to preserve a 100 metre buffer zone between them and that other class of citizen, the political class, so that their private entertainment at the GPO, paid for by the excluded, should not be disturbed in any way.

A large prime viewing area between Abbey Street and the GPO was corralled off, bearing the sign ‘Defence Forces Guests’. It remained empty for the entire proceedings. The only area to which citizens could gain access required being subjected to body-frisking and bag searches. None of that for the ‘dignitaries’ of course, although many of those present had done grievous damage to the State and to the Nation. Not content with that, now they would do grievous damage to the dignity of the occasion.

A contingent from the combined Defence Forces, pathetically small in numbers, marched to the GPO, some unable to keep in step to the drumbeat. Their counterparts of 95 years ago would not have been impressed. Another insult to the occasion.

The Military Band ditched well established Irish marching airs in favour of twee music hall ditties such as ‘Step it out Mary’. The musical director evidently doesn’t know the difference between commemorating the revolution, its participants, and the Irish Republic of the Proclamation, and entertaining the fans in the Aviva Stadium before a football match. Yet another insult to the occasion.

Not content with restricting a view of the proceedings to a couple of medium sized screens so far away from the citizens as to be almost useless, the organisers provided a sound system that was inaudible to all but the chosen few, the ‘dignitaries’. But, perhaps to occupy their minds in case the ‘natives’ became restless, an expensive glossy folded programme informed them about what they were missing, in Irish and English – at the citizens’ expence, of course.

Proceedings over, the man responsible for this debacle, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, thought it appropriate to engage with reporters on the subject of the Queen of England’s visit at the point outside the GPO where Patrick Pearse, accompanied by James Connolly, had read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic 95 years ago to almost the precise minute. Enda Kenny obviously has no sense of propriety. He might have waited five minutes and delivered his thoughts on that subject on the way into the private reception for the ‘dignitaries’ in a nearby hotel (again paid for by the excluded citizens). Another insult to the occasion.

A small group of citizens made their way past the GPO, pausing with their banner at the Portico. Its legend stated that “April 24th is Republic Day”.  Some remaining ‘dignitaries’ and State apparatchiks looked on as  if unable to understand what these gatecrashers were about, while some citizens, now free to approach their GPO, took photos of this phenomenon and expressed interest in the banner’s statement.

The Republic Day citizens made their way from the GPO to the almost derelict National Monument at 16 Moore Street, the last outpost of the 1916 GPO Garrison and leaders prior to the surrender. The State has, of course, failed to secure the integrity of this battlefield site and to give it its dignity as a place of immense historical significance. Another studied insult to the revolutionaries of 1916 and the Republic that they created but which still has to be put in place.

At 16 Moore Street this small band of citizens held a meaningful, dignified and proper commemoration of the revolution, its participants and of the establishing of the Irish Republic. In attendance to support the Republic Day campaign were relatives of executed leaders of the revolution – James Connolly’s grandson Roddy Wilson, and Connolly’s great-grandson James Connolly-Heron, Joesph Plunkett’s grand-niece Honor O’Brolacháin, and Thomas McDonagh’s grand-daughter Lucille Redmond.

An address on the relevance of the revolution and the Irish Republic to today’s Ireland and its citizens was followed by the trooping of the flags – the Tricolour, the Starry Plough and Connolly’s Irish Republic flag – as the Last Post and Reveille were played by trumpeter Danny Healy. A wreath with seven Easter Lilies to signify the signatories of the Proclamation was laid at the building by Roddy Wilson. A short explanation that the origins of the Irish National Anthem were in the GPO as the building burned around the revolutionaries was followed by Frank Allen leading the citizens in singing the anthem outside the building in which those revolutionaries spent their last hours together as an army.

The contrast between the official State ceremony, held for the private gratification of a self-styled ‘elite’, with the few citizens present on the perimeter to be satisfied with crumbs from the table as insult after insult was heaped on them and on the participants of the actual revolution, and the unofficial citizens’ ceremony at Moore Street, could not have been more marked. On the one hand a dishonour was done, on the other honour was restored to the occasion.

The State owes its citizens an abject apology for the cack-handed, segregationist affair on O’Connell Street on the 24th April 2011 – Republic Day. It should also withdraw from any future commemoration of the 1916 revolution, its participants and of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It is not up to the job. Those future commemorations will be in safe hands, the citizens’ hands. The citizens understand respect, dignity and honour, the so-called ‘elite’ – the political class – regard these concepts as obstructions on the way to the Banana Republic.

On Republic Day 2012 there will be no sign of the political class at the GPO. They only do Easter Sunday, if they must. On Tuesday 24th April 2012 the Republic Day campaign will hold a dignified ceremony at the GPO. Citizens who care about the establishment of a proper republic – the Irish Republic – should mark their calendars and get ready for the day.

April 24th – Reclaim the Spirit of 1916

Do you want to know a secret? But you have to promise not to tell! There will be a military parade in Dublin on Easter Sunday to commemorate the 1916 revolution, organised by the State. For God’s sake, keep it to yourself, no-one must know about it. If word leaked out there might be repercussions, chaos in the streets. Even the military must be kept in the dark.

April 24th 2011 will mark the 95th anniversary of the revolution of Easter 1916, but even a focused search of the internet reveals no detail of the State’s plans to commemorate that seminal moment in Irish history that led to independence from the British Empire. Enquiries to relevant departments of the Irish military reveal that there is to be a parade in O’Connell Street at the GPO, but no details as to time or form of commemoration.

This has a resonance back to 1991, the 75th anniversary of the revolution, when the State disowned the event and it was left to individuals and small groups to organise events and ceremonies to commemorate and celebrate the revolution and the revolutionaries.

Robert Ballagh, prominent artist and activist, was the driving force behind maintaining the commemoration by organising a series of events featuring artists, writers, actors, musicians and political activists. For his efforts he was rewarded with State harassment, with the Special Branch paying very close attention to his movements, stopping him on the streets to demand his ID and so on. A young man – a Leaving Certificate student – who was assisting in the organising of events had his school visited by Special Branch detectives and his parents warned of his ‘subversive’ activities to the extent that he had to withdraw from participation in honouring the revolution and its heroes!

With the coming of the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement, the State seemed by 2006 to have put this nonsensical attitude behind in organising a significant military parade on Easter Sunday through O’Connell Street in the 90th anniversary year of the revolution. Fine words were written and spoken, newspapers published colourful supplements marking the occasion, massive crowds turned out and the military created a fine and dignified spectacle.

It seemed as if a corner had been turned and that in the approach to the centenary in 2016 official attitudes would change and the value of commemorating and celebrating the revolution would be recognised. Far from it! Subsequent military parades were reduced in size and the commemorations downplayed. Even viewed from a crassly commercial perspective this makes no sense, given the extensive interest in the 1916 revolution, internationally. But, more seriously, the benefits of using the anniversary as a means of re-engaging the citizenry, particularly the young, with notions of citizenship and community, and with the meaning of the word ‘republic’ and all that that carries in terms of values, seem to have been discarded.

In five years time the centenary of the 1916 revolution will presumably be marked by the State. In the meantime, the State, by now no longer sovereign and certainly not independent of the EU and the IMF, seems to wish to go through the motions in as low-key a manner as possible. That is hardly surprising, given that Fine Gael, the lead party in government, grew out of the counter-revolution of the 1920s including the murder of heroes of 1916, while the junior partner in government, the Labour Party, has long since distanced itself from the revolution led by the party’s founder James Connolly, while in a lily-livered fashion paying lip service to his social ideas.

This year, by pure coincidence, Easter Sunday falls on the actual anniversary, otherwise it would be left to citizens alone to mark the anniversary. But the Citizens Initiative for Republic Day will be present with their banner stating that ‘April 24th is Republic Day’ from 10.30am outside Eason’s Bookshop on O’Connell Street. Following the military parade the Republic Day campaign will move to 16 Moore Street, the final battlefield location of the 1916 GPO Garrison prior to surrender, for a brief commemoration ceremony. Please come along and join us at both locations. And spread the word – don’t keep it a secret.

Property of the People

The Property of the People

We will reform parliament, they say! Abolish the Senate, bring in a list system, change to single-seat constituencies, re-write the constitution or write a new one, create the Second Republic. All slogans floating about on hot air before they settle onto shifting sand, destined to disappear before the existing order can be upset or even overturned.

We live in what we are told is a republic, and it seems that most citizens prefer the notion of a republic to any other form of government. But if, according to Cicero’s description, the republic is the property of the people, then how is it that the citizens have been rendered powerless to alter events and decisions that led the ‘Republic’ of Ireland to cede national sovereignty to foreign institutions, both private and public, and to beggar the people in the process? And how is it that most citizens, with all of their natural tendencies towards fairness and justice and decency intact, have been unable to shape a fair and just and decent State in what they believe to be a republic?

It is reasonable to assume the following about a majority of Irish citizens. That they would happily settle for a republic to which citizens would pledge their allegiance in exchange for: guarantees on civil and religious liberty; equal rights and equal opportunities; the State’s commitment to seeking happiness and prosperity for all citizens and to cherishing them all equally; a commitment to maintain the independent and sovereign ownership of the territory and of its resources for the benefit of the people of Ireland; and that the people will exercise sovereign control over the destiny of the nation.

If the central assumption is correct, that citizens would enter into that contract with the State, then surely this should be the basis for proceeding with the creation of a ‘Second Republic’?

But why create a ‘Second Republic’ when these conditions and this contract with the citizens already exist in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic of the 24th April 1916? That Irish Republic has never been extinguished or un-proclaimed since it could not be, but simply covered with layers of constitutions, laws and regulations designed to frustrate the creation of the conditions of a true post-Enlightenment republic, and denying the citizens their rightful control of the republic.

The Proclamation contains within it all of the first principles of any new constitution, and the Irish Republic must be the centre of all discussion and debate if there is to be meaningful reform of the political system and the State itself – and there must be.

The progressive Irish Republic stands as a rebuke to regressive politics and 90 years of failure. It is for all of the citizens to rally to the cause of working for the Irish Republic so that it can work for all – that at last we will have, not a plutarchy that only works for the benefit of an ‘elite’, but instead a republic that is the property of the people.

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