Easter 1916 saw the most famous of the rebellious risings against the British in our history. It has been revised and re-positioned several times in my life-time, never mind in the hundred years since the thing happened. But, I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm about the celebrations, or commemorations or whatever you want to call them. I think we’ve failed. We’ve failed the ideals expressed by the leaders of the Rising, as outlined in the proclamation. Taking a look at some of those ideals, (and ignoring all references to God), I have a few thoughts:
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.
Tell that to the 5,000 homeless children, women and men on the streets of Ireland. Tell that to the people whose government sold her rights to the gas that lies off her shores, who considered selling off the woodlands. Tell that to the people who have been brought to their knees, or emigrated, or killed themselves due to the financial pressures brought about by the Irish government’s decision to bail out the bondholders.
The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.
I’d say there are plenty of Irish people feeling destroyed on a daily basis – and a right is not much use if you don’t get the opportunity to exercise it.
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally…
What use is religious liberty if your children are refused access to an education on the grounds that they are of the ‘wrong’ (ie not Roman Catholic) religion – or practice none at all? As far as civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities being secured, well – tell that to the women who are unable to access legal abortions in Ireland. Tell that to the widowers and motherless children of women who have died because they couldn’t get access to abortions. Tell that to women whose pelvises were sawn in half and who are still waiting for justice. Tell that to the children who were incarcerated and abused in industrial schools. Tell that to the women and children who were incarcerated in laundries up and down this country. Tell that to the children who have been born into and continue to live in direct provision. Tell that to the women who were fecked out of their jobs as soon as they got married – until 1973 it was illegal for a woman to keep her job in a bank or the civil service (unless she was a nurse or a teacher). Tell that to the women of Ireland who are still treated as second class citizens – who are not allowed autonomy over their own bodies.
As far as cherishing all of the children of the nation equally – I could be here all day commenting on that one. Children are not cherished by this nation. Grace and Karen tell us that. Children with disabilities tell us that. Children who have any type of special need tell us that.
For all these reasons and more, I don’t think that we are in any position to celebrate anything. I’m disgusted that over €50m has been earmarked for the 1916 commemorations. How many families would that have housed? How many procedures for people on our long waiting lists would that have paid for? How many children in desperate situations would that have saved? How many special needs assistants’ salaries would that have paid?
I struggle to find a reason to be proud of Ireland. I am proud of certain individual Irish people; but more and more I am frustrated by the attitude of Ireland to her children, to their pasts, to their present moments, and to their futures.