Debate: That this House regrets the 1916 Rising

 

 

Opposing the motion, this contribution to the debate was made by Paul S, a member of the FRS in UCD, against Ruth Dudley Edwards. Sources tell me that Eoghan Harris bottled it and did a runner when he heard Paul would be speaking!

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow speakers, Mr Auditor.

 

This debate was framed around the contentious issue of the events of Easter week 1916. However I think that the true question when the motion is taken in its context is whether or not we consider the physical resistance to British occupation used by the men of 1916 to be morally justifiable. I can answer for myself with no hesitation that I think it was is and always will be acceptable to resist through whatever means necessary.

 

The events of Easter week have been distorted and mythologized beyond belief. I do not buy into any romantic nationalist myths about what occurred. I do not think that what happened was poetic or romantic. It was not a plan hatched by men who were born to give their lives in a blood sacrifice for mother Erin. It was an opportunistic military strike against an occupying power. An occupying power that has throughout Irish history been instrumental in preventing and obstructing the full realisation of nationhood for Ireland. The nature of this occupation by the forces of an imperialist nation has always been one of an exploitative agenda of our nation. Any notion that the forces of Britain have ever been stationed in Ireland for anything other than a repressive role is fanciful. The Easter rebellion against these forces was fought by Irishmen and women who sought freedom from seven centuries of humiliation, degradation and oppression inflicted by an empire whose bloody reach left no corner of the earth undefiled.

 

What actions are therefore suitable when one meets oppression? The volunteers who fought in Easter week had no democratic mandate. Many criticise them saying they should have stuck it out and waited for home rule. Aside from the obvious point that home rule was merely British rule on a longer leash lets examine Britain’s democratic record in Ireland. In 1912 the volunteers were established in response to the uvf who openly defied the British government with the aid of the conservative party and the British army as well as prominent establishment figures. No action was taken to combat this flagrant disregard for the governments home rule bill. Whilst the nationalists were to be kept under the jackboot loyalists could do what they wished with impunity. So democracy was never anything other than a useful tool for the British government in Ireland. Used when appropriate. So I will not condemn the volunteers for ignoring a hypocritical system. The simple truth is that when people are bullied and beaten and pushed to the brink they will fight back.

 

I do not regret the Easter rebellion because it was nothing more than a step on the path to an independent republic. A path that continues to be obstructed and blocked by the British government and their allies in Leinster House. The volunteers of Easter week were merely the successors of the Fenians and the united Irishmen amongst others. They were succeeded by the IRA volunteers of the 1920s who fostered and unbroken, unbowed and undefeated lineage that remains intact to this day. I will not stand here and say as some might that resistance was acceptable in 1916 but not in 1972. Either physical resistance is acceptable or it isn’t you can’t pick and choose. It is one of the tragedies of war that innocents perish but it is not a feature unique to wars fought on Irish soil. Plenty of bystanders were cut down by rebel bullets in Easter week so for the likes of fianna fail to exploit Easter week and condemn other republicans is morally reprehensible and intrinsically hypocritical.

 

To sum up I can only express consternation that this debate did not explore more fully the issue of Irish resistance to British occupation. As for the motion I can only express dismay that there are still people who feel the need to be ashamed and apologetic for our patriots. The torch they carried has been passed. It inhabits the cells of Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons, the streets of Ardoyne and elsewhere. Republicans continue to be imprisoned for following in the footsteps of men like Clarke and Connolly. I urge you to vote against this motion. We should not regret the volunteers of 1916, 1972 or 2009.  Thank you

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