Tuesday 15 March 2016

Lá an Fhorógra 2016

On Easter Sunday 24th April 1916, Padraig Pearse walked out into Sackville Street from the newly occupied GPO and read a Proclamation to a small crowd of bemusedonlookers from the provisional government of the Republic of Ireland. "IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom etc. etc.[Full text]" Even now there is a slight intake of breath at the hubris of Pearse and his slightly bonkers revolutionaries claiming to speak for God and the dead generations.  But the leaders would all too shortly be joining the entities for whom they claimed to speak, along with 450 other people, the majority of whom were by-catch of the crossfire - 254 'civilians' were killed and about 10x that number wounded over the next 6 days.

Easter was well late in 1916 and it is rather early in 2016 so there is a dilemma about whether to celebrate the week of 24th April or the week of 28th March.  The dilemma is quickly resolved by doing both - and throw in St Patrick's Day as well - because everyone wants to put on the razz for Pearse and Co. Not me, I'm with Samuel Johnson "[harrrumph] patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".  Not least because it tends to precipitate war so you finish up with "A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end".

The number of people who were in the GPO for Easter Week 1916 has grown and grown until there were more revolutionaries inside the building than there were square feet of floor space to hold them - standing shoulder to shoulder indeed.  When the Free State was launched 8 years later, the war having been won, and pensions were on offer for those who had fought for Ireland, there was a real incentive to have been there.

As part of the 1916 Centenary Celebrations, Today 15th March has been designated Proclamation Day and schools and other educational institutions have been incentivised [prizes, project packages] to engage with the idea of nationhood by presenting historical research projects and celebrating the Republic in story, song and dance.  The Institute will be doing its bit for using 1916 to create a vision for 2016 Ireland at 2pm today in the largest lecture hall.  Followed by a reading of The Proclamation outside. I hope that nobody will have the bright idea to dress up some young chap to guy Padraig Pearse [R looking resolutely into the Leftist future] down to a volunteer green great coat and a slouch-hat.  That sort of pantomime is not looking forward to a more equable society in Ireland.  The business manager of The Institute announced the order of events a couple of weeks ago and added, wholly predictably, that classes would carry on as normal during Proclamation Day.

It didn't take long for someone to set down, in a calling-all-cars e-mail, their 1916 credentials and decry the idea that they and their class would be unable to attend because Technical Drawing 106 was scheduled for 2pm Tuesdays this term. Credentials: "My grandfather was interned in Frongoch Camp . . ." - "My grandfather carried dispatches  . . . " - "My grandmother carried dispatches . . .".  After a day of this, another lecturer plaintively asked "Can we all go?"  My (tactfully unsent) response was that you could only go if you claimed a near relative in the GPO.  But as a)  'the dead generations' were now stacked like cordwood in the smoking ruins of the GPO and b) the Irish are 'strong breeders' [except the Protestants!] and c) 3 generations had passed; there was a racing certainty that everyone in the Institute could go.  Of course I was over-egging the pudding, because the best that our German trade union rep could claim was that his ancestors might has supplied the Mausers that filled the Aud before she was scuttled of a beach in Kerry.  The best that my naval ancestors could claim is that they were aboard the Helga directing shells into Liberty Hall from the River Liffey. They weren't, but neither would my family be swimming against the tide of history to admit it.

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