Letters to the Editor 2006-02-23

"1916" is so intertwined with the official (and popular) "narratives" of the origin of our State – and how we see ourselves as a people – that it is almost impossible to have a clinical or rational debate on the Rising and its implications. You are to be congratulated on facilitating that debate.

Andrew McGrath, (Village 16-22 February 2006), suggests that Redmond's mandate had miraculously "expired" in 1915. With respect, he should acquaint himself more fully with the way parliaments (including our own Oireachtas) actually work. In the 18th century, British parliaments sometimes went on for decades. In the legislation subsequently passed to address that problem, the power was retained to postpone elections. It happened also during the Second World War. Redmond retained his mandate to speak for Nationalist Ireland until 1918 – when it was brusquely but decisively removed.

In his thoughtful contribution, Vincent Browne (Village 16-22 February 2006) suggests: "Ireland probably would not have become independent until after the Second World War – if then." This kind of remark has absolutely no scientific value whatsoever, being purely speculation, but it comes with a price tag in lives. Browne goes on to justify the Rising with: "Germany was expected to win the European war"; "it was obvious that the Home Rule Bill (sic) of 1914 was going to be frustrated"; there would be a peace conference in which the insurrectionists would have a reserved seat. These are opinions – not facts.

Without being drawn into fantasy land, Browne's parallel with Wales is sheer nonsense. Apart from some agitation about the disestablishment of the Church of Wales prior to 1914, there was nothing in Wales or Scotland until after WWII remotely comparable in popular support to Irish Parliamentary Party, which, to put meat on Browne's own words, won 80 of the 106 Irish seats at the last election before 1916 on a programme to dissolve the Act of Union. And, as Browne himself seems to ask, what did the plenipotentiaries get when they signed on the dotted line on 6 December 1921 – after nearly three years of war in Ireland? Worse, what did we have on the ground in 1923, after a bitter Civil War, (deriving its mandate from 1916), which as Browne knows more than most, paralysed "normal" politics in our country for 40 years? The king's governor-general was not shown the door till the abdication crisis of 1936. British troops did not leave the territory of the 26 counties (aka Irish Free State) until 1938. Our ambassadors were accredited from the Court of St James for years afterwards.

There is a much more convincing (but still speculative) argument than the entirely fanciful one that we would still be languishing under the House of Windsor-Mountbatten in 2006: any British government which had tried to long-finger home rule in 1919 would have faced a united nationalist Ireland – and tens of thousands of demobbed trained Irish soldiers – demanding what they had been, not just promised, but given – and was law. The very fact that the Government of Ireland Act was introduced in 1920 (to implement home rule) shows that even the most die-hard elements in the British government could not prevent the end of the Act of Union, which (as Carson and his associates knew only too well in 1912) was moribund after the British Parliament Act of 1911 – and dead when George V gave the Royal Assent to the Home Rule Act (sic) in the summer of 1914.

If we are to deal with "1916" (and the "problem" which it bequeathed to the Irish people), let us stick to facts.

In her bizarre UCC speech, even President McAleese herself refers to "the tens of thousands in British uniforms heading for the Somme" and "the few, training in secret" with the IRB or the Irish Volunteers. In 1916, the overwhelming mandate from nationalist Ireland was for the home rule scenario represented by Redmond. The Rising did not have the support of nationalist Ireland when it occurred. Painful though it may be to acknowledge it, a small, even tiny, self-appointed elite hijacked Irish history. Using a classic revolutionary technique, they hijacked Irish public opinion, and thus the Irish people themselves, in a profoundly anti-democratic act of violence. (This, be it noted, is an entirely separate issue as to whether the patriotism and altruism of most of the participants should be celebrated).

Browne says: "The rebellion occurred without a democratic mandate" but finishes his sentence with "but to most of the insurrectionists that was an irrelevance" – implying that that sort of makes it all right. Though in fairness, he does conclude: "It was seen to legitimise the use of force without a democratic mandate."

Not for the first time, Vincent does not clarify how he feels about this issue of unilateral, un-mandated action. It is not academic or esoteric. It is very much alive in Ireland today. Even more seriously, it is very much a live issue (a matter of life and death?) in the globe in which we live – and hopefully our grandchildren will live.

The great political issue of our day is whether our planet is to be governed by the rule of law and due constitutional democratic process – or left to the lads with the pickaxe handles. This is part of the reason why we Irish have to get ourselves clear in our own minds about something which is not "just" an historical event.

Maurice O'Connell

Tralee, Co Kerry

Vincent Browne's point about not being surprised at the violence of the rising owing to the "culture of violence" in existence at that time, only serves to obfuscate our understanding of the factors that produced the rising; factors that can be found inside the internal terrorist logic of direct action violent separatism, and nowhere else.

His claim that the rising "was a success" is obviously untrue. The aim of the insurrectionists was to secure through force a united Irish republic with German help; instead they ultimately ended up with a broken polity, and an effective counter-revolution in 1922, that placed a reactionary nationalist elite in power, soon joined by most of the remnants of Sinn Féin in 1926.

Vincent Browne's musings on the shortcomings of Home Rule add yet another layer of obscurity that again serves a political agenda. According to Alvin Jackson, any future revision of Home Rule, far from diluting it, would have been intended to provide the measure with further substance. Home Rule had royal ascent, and further proof of the British government's good faith lies in the fact that, as I have repeated, Redmond was offered Home Rule on the 16 of May 1917 for the 26 counties.

John Redmond's catastrophic miscalculation, and James Connolly's disastrous decision to involve himself and his movement in an elitist, anti-intellectual, violent, nationalist cause denuded Ireland of a much-needed intellectual political discourse. While I admire Connolly's passion for justice, his participation in 1916 was unforgivable, not least for the fact that his actions buried any prospect of the emergence of a liberal, secular, social republicanism.

Vincent Browne further reveals his flawed view of the actions of Clarke and Pearse by placing a measure of blame upon Ulster Unionists for the brutal violence inflicted upon a country, tragically at war abroad, though at peace at home. The duty of any Irish patriot at that time was to maintain that peace, and prevent harm to one's beloved country; had it not been for a cadre of proto-fascists, this task would have presented no difficulty.

He goes on to trundle out the old separatist line, that the real objective of the Rising was to impress upon a hypothetical "peace conference", through the blood letting of a small minority: Ireland's ardent desire for independence. One would have to be very naive indeed not to dismiss this as anything other than a piece of retrospective republican spin.

In Pearse's letter to his mother following the insurrection, he clearly laments the fact that the Germans did not invade Ireland in support of the Rising. The insurrection, however insane, was a real attempt at political revolution, carried out on the basis that Zimmerman would be so impressed by the heroism of a handful of his allies in Ireland, that he would act to support them militarily.

The 1916 insurrection can only be defended as a preternatural act, an event that was, and is, in the minds of its apologists, unanswerable to any secular or religious law. However, in the real world the rising violated constitutional, democratic, moral and Christian ethical principles relating to the legitimate use of force in the name of patriotism and justice. These facts were well known to the Jesuit priest and historian, the courageous Francis Shaw, a man who dared to challenge state orthodoxy about Pearse and 1916 in 1966.

When one considers the central role that Roman Catholicism played in the hearts and minds of the rebels, one is struck, not by their piety, but by the lightness with which they regarded their faith, and the cautious reaction of the Roman Catholic church to a deed that blew away the "just war" theory, as laid down by St Augustine and many others who came after him. In short, 1916 was an anti-Christian (anti-Catholic) blasphemy, and a betrayal of the principles of republicanism.

The power to wage a republican war, or war in the name of a republic, derives from the "people", not – as in the case of Easter 1916 – from a small minority of violent nationalists, spurred on by a power lust, and a blinding faith in the invincibility of German militarism.

Pierce Martin

Celbridge, Co Kildare

This year the 90th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising will no doubt generate more heat than light in relation to the reason for the Rising, the motivation of those involved, their lack of a "democratic" mandate. It is around important junctures in history that the elites make every effort to ensure that the their views and interpretation of events is dominant within the education system and society as a whole. The control of the historical memory is one key aspect of the ideological underpinning of and maintenance of the domination by the elite.

Over the next few months the James Connolly Education Trust will be holding a series of public talks dealing with different aspects of the 1916 Rising, the conditions prevailing at the time, the forces involved and the goals and ideas that motivated them. Our first talk will be given by Manus O'Riordan, Head of Research with SIPTU and the author of numerous papers and pamphlets on Irish history.

He will deliver his talk on "James Connolly, the World War, and 1916" in the Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse Street, Dublin at 8.00pm on Tuesday 28 February. We would like to invite the readers of Village to come along and take part in what will be different perspective on the events leading up to the Rising. If people would like further details of this and other lectures in the series, then send us an e-mail: connollybooks@eircom.net

Eugene Mc Cartan

Dublin 1

"Reconstructing the Easter Rising" by Colin Murphy, together with Vincent Browne's piece, "The 1916 Easter Rising was a success", in issue 73, places Village magazine firmly on the anti-1916 side in the current debate. Neither article is equal to its task.

In seeking to show how Fianna Fáil has made use of 1916 in the past, Colin Murphy describes how the first formal commemoration of the Rising in 1929 by Cumann na nGaedheal was a low-key affair. He then describes how de Valera acted to suppress the IRA in 1934. Given both of these factors, it made political sense that Fianna Fáil should firstly stage a commemoration befitting the State's formative event in contrast to the shamefaced effort of 1929, and secondly, use the event to challenge the IRA's claim to be the true inheritors of 1916. According to its own priorities, Fianna Fáil was functioning as a competent political party, but Murphy can see only ulterior manipulation.

Regarding the minor part assigned to the women of Cumann na mBan and the Citizen Army in the 1935 ceremony, it is true that de Valera held an old-fashioned notion of the place of women in society. But by condemning him for failing to bring women to the forefront of the commemoration, Murphy is judging the actions of a public figure in the 1930s against the standards of the 1970s and later.

Colin Murphy is judging political matters from an apolitical viewpoint and assessing historical events ahistorically. Such methods can only induce cynicism and muddled thinking.

Vincent Browne doesn't use such methods, but his article has a similar effect. Very grudgingly he accepts that independence might never have been achieved without the Rising. From this he moves to questioning the value of independence itself. And on that note of profound questioning his article is left hanging.

In moving away from the national tradition we are to enter a state of angst as to whether our successful nation state should exist or not. Bring on the new vision for Ireland – a nation state with an existential problem.

When are the anti-national intelligentsia going to stop snapping at the heels of independent Ireland and openly propose re-joining the UK?

David Alvey

Dalkey, Co Dublin

It was with some interest that I have been following the debates on the 1916 Rising.

As a real republican (not the Fianna Fáil variety), I would like to make a little aguisín to the discussion. In 1966, following recently enacted legislation, CIÉ renamed its 15 principal stations after the patriots executed by the British after the Rising.

My own local station in Bray was then called Daly Station after Ned Daly. Just six stops north, Dún Laoghaire was named after Michael Malin. Not so long ago, Bray was still known as "Bray (Daly) Station." Some sign changes later, Daly and Malin have been quietly dropped.

However, works were undertaken in 2004 to improve access for mobility-impaired passengers. The works have not yet been finished in many stations and the mini-building sites only serve to impede all passengers equally.

In September 2004, I was in contact via phone and post with various representatives of Iarnród Éireann to remind them of their obligations under the laws of the land. I also raised the matter at Bray Town Council, which then wrote to CIÉ requesting that Daly's name be honoured. The following December, CIÉ wrote to the council to confirm that the new signs would include Ned Daly's name.

Instead we got "bilingual" signs, where the Irish is invisible at night. We got seemingly interminable weekend shut downs. And we got excruciating tannoy announcements inside the trains to tell passengers that the DART is "for" Bray or "for" Greystones, or to "mind the gap," or to take your feet off the seats, or that there is a CCTV camera "for your convenience." Unlike the Luas, all of these announcements are entirely in English.

Iarnród Éireann has failed to meet its obligations under the legislation. It then compounded the problem by misleading myself and Bray Town Council. All the time, it implemented a programme to antagonise its passengers. Short of slapping us on the head or kicking us in the pants as we get on the trains, I think there is very little they can add to that programme.

Iarnród Éireann should honour its commitment to Bray Town Council. It should honour the heroes and patriots of 1916.

Cllr John Brady


Minister Martin Cullen needs more than breathalysers and penalty points to solve fatal road accidents. Identifying the physical hazards in the layout and construction of roads and motorways and isolating these should have top priority. This needs to be followed up with an ongoing awareness education of all road users through regular news-time advertising on TV and the highlighting of a safe code of road-user etiquette on all available media.

While I concur fully with the aspirations of writer Rossa Ó Snodaigh on "Problem Slow Drivers" in the last issue of Village, I take leave to offer my observations. It came as no surprise to read, since limits were cut, eight times as many drivers are exceeding the speeds.

The main reason why speeding has increased is because the majority of drivers have forgotten the metric signposting with the reduced speeds in km. They fail to differentiate between the mph and the kmph – reading 100 kmph as 100 mph, or 60 kmph as 60 kmph. And the Government is to blame for this, because dual speed sign posting (ie English and metric) should have been left in place until such time as all vehicles on Irish roads had metric speedometers installed. The mph speedometer with metric reading in tiny figures still on most cars is misleading. Furthermore, drivers need the extra time with dual marked speed signs to become fully acquainted with the new limits.

Driving too slow can also be very dangerous if drivers don't move in and yield to passing traffic. This is particularly so in the case of tractors, trailers and machinery not having warning signs or proper lighting, especially at night.

Long-wheel base vehicles not yielding, when possible, to passing traffic are a cause of build-ups and accidents.

Pedestrians and cyclists not in illuminated dress are always a hazard.

High, almost perpendicular, kerbs at traffic calming points, roundabouts, bends and junctions are exceptionally dangerous. All of these should be curved and sloped out to the road; and, most important, they should be highlighted with illuminated paint.

Finally there's a wise saying that can help – "Discipline yourself so others won't need to".


Thurles, Co Tipperary

The European Parliament's passing of the controversial Services Directive should sound alarm bells for the Irish trade union movement, particularly in the wake of the Irish Ferries dispute. The "country of origin" principle is being removed, but is not being replaced with a "country of destination" principle, while the foreign posting directive continues to give low-wage countries the right to undermine Irish wages and conditions.

Through Amendment 5, the EU Court of Justice is invited to legislate and determine principles regarding non-discrimination, necessity and proportionality. Given the Court's neo-liberal reputation and its penchant for competence-creep, it is most likely to decide that a national law be regarded as illegal if foreign companies don't have access to bid on contracts and deliver their services.

The Directive now goes to the European Council of Ministers. If the Council passes this anti-worker legislation, democratic movements in Ireland and across the EU must campaign for national parliaments to refuse to implement it and Irish trade unions must consider whether there is any point in continuing with social partnership talks when the Government is prepared to back such regressive measures.

As can be seen from the outcome of the Irish Ferries dispute, the continued inability of the Irish Government to protect rights and working conditions is a stark example of the kind of onslaught on wages and conditions that workers can expect if the proposed EU Services Directive is implemented across the bloc.

Frank Keoghan

People's Movement

We believe that the European Parliament's approval of a heavily amended version of the draft "Bolkestein" services directive is a positive result, and a first win for the campaign led by the European trade union movement and concerned MEPs. Our fears that jobs, health and safety, working conditions and the environment would be jeopardised by a race to the bottom have been heard and acted on.

The European trade union movement – including the ETF (European Transport Workers' Federation) – lobbied hard to explain not just the dangers, but also the injustice, of the country of origin principle,which could allow jobs and conditions in countries with strong social standards to be threatened by the application of laws of other countries with weaker worker protection. The country of origin principle has now been removed from the Directive and services of general interest, including public transport and port operations, have been excluded.

That, coming in the wake of the massive defeat of Ports Package II, shows what can be achieved by concerted action – but also the need for vigilance. It now goes back to the Commission for reconsideration. All concerned will be watching carefully to make sure that its negative aspects are not allowed to reappear unchallenged.

Tony Ayton

International Transport Workers' Federation representative in Ireland

New EPA figures mean we must radically overhaul our economic, energy and environmental policies if Ireland is to do its fair share to prevent dangerous climate change. A report published recenty by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions began to rise again in 2004. They are now 23.5 per cent higher than in 1990, while our current Kyoto commitment is to limit the increase to 13 per cent before 2012.

I find it hard to believe the Minister for the Environment is welcoming the EPA figures as a sign that we are "decoupling" carbon emissions from economic growth. They only person I know of who considers such decoupling a measure of real progress in the fight against climate change is George Bush. We have to reduce actual emissions, not just the rate at which they are increasing.

The latest figures demonstrate the challenge we face. Climate change and energy policy are going to dominate our public agenda in years ahead in the way unemployment and emigration did in years gone by. Let's not forget that Kyoto is just the first step in tackling climate change. The latest science suggests that we need to cut global emissions in half by 2050. To do our fair share Ireland will have to cut its greenhouse pollution by at least two-thirds. We can start now and make incremental changes or we can face disruption and upheaval in the future. There are no short-cuts, quick-fixes or get-out clauses.

The Government has promised a public consultation on new policy measures. My fear is they are only interested in tinkering at the margins. In fact we need to fundamentally reassess the way we think, the way we live and the way we work. We tackled our economic underdevelopment with a creative mix of new thinking, investment in education, social partnership and government incentives. We need the same degree of innovation, investment and incentives and the same social and political commitment if we are to make the shift to sustainability.

Friends of the Earth Director

? More: www.epa.ie, www.foe.ie

I wonder if the real underlying unease within Fianna Fáil will be what finishes off Bertie in the end? There is something strange about an unassailable leader having so much difficulty with the grassroots at different conventions around the country when everyone from all sides thinks in their heart and soul that when push comes to shove, Fianna Fáil will sweep back to power on the economy.

The Sean Haughey snub shows why and where Bertie might blow it in the end. The next election will be some campaign and battle, and thus Bertie needs the troops to be ready to fight a major ground war when it starts. I just wonder if all this control from Mount St is working? Is there a move within the grassroots to see a few new faces on the ballot paper instead of the Old Reliables and minimum candidate strategy so favoured by the party big wigs? Is it possible that too many within the party won't have the enthusiasim to fight much of an election when it comes, as their local man didn't get a chance at convention? Could this be the unforeseen Achilles heel that Bertie and the lads in Mount St don't see ultimately coming back to haunt them in the end when the election rolls?

Peter Moylan

I see from recent media reports that cocaine has become the "drug of choice" for many young people, socialites, and students. It's deemed to be the coolest thing going.

Really? One wonders why intelligent people would choose to mess up their brains and bodies with a substance that, according to reliable medical advice and research, leads to the user having to cope with a whole range of utterly destructive side-effects and decidedly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine can make you delusional, violent, psychotic, paranoid, or aggressive, in addition to raising blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration and thus increasing your chances of respiratory arrest, heart attacks, seizures or stroke.

I have never had a desire to get a fix from this drug. As the song says, I get no kick from cocaine. But if I were tempted to try it, I would be deterred by the thought of one memorable interview on an American chat show. I can't get the image out of my mind: an ex-addict was asked what finally persuaded him to quit cocaine.

He replied: "Well, it was that morning when I sneezed at the breakfast table and, would you believe it, the middle part of my nose fell right into my Corn Flakes. It was like as if half a pot of strawberry jam had appeared like magic in the bowl."

He went on to explain that cocaine use can rot away parts of the nasal structure.

Watching that interview, I shook my head and said to myself: "Jesus, if that's cool, so is a hot summer's day." Can I tell your readers what's really cool? The next time any of you get even a hint of who is peddling this poison to young people, think of what that drug-pushing creep is really doing. He is embarking on a "search and destroy" mission. He's searching for gullible idiots who will accept his filth – for a hefty fee – and then further oblige him by destroying their lives and adding thereby to the wealth of the gangland entrepreneurs who grow fat and rich on the tragedy of drug addiction.

The coolest thing of all you can do is take careful note of who the dealer is and then pass all relevant information to gardaí. If you're worried about the so-called "informer stigma", forget it. That goes back to a time in Ireland when Redcoats, Black and Tans, B Specials, UDR, RIC and other oppressive elements stalked the land. To inform on the brave people who fought these tyrants was indeed an act of betrayal. But drug dealers are not heroes. They are not fellow countrymen who deserve our support or our tactical silence. They are enemies of the people – the most deadly foe our country has ever faced.

There are no good drug dealers. They are all rotten to the core.

And there is only one place for each and every one of them: behind bars.

So please help to make Ireland a better and healthier country for you and your families. Next time you get wind of somebody dealing cocaine or other drugs, pick up the phone and pass on that vital intelligence to Gardaí.

And feel good about taking that stand. You will probably be saving lives. Think about it!

John Fitzgerald

Callan, Co Kilkenny