Hands up if you remember the moving statues? …God, I didn’t think you were that old. In any case, there’s a reminder of them in a letter to the Irish Times this morning. It’s not an attack on superstition or even the Catholic Church, it’s a little peek – a revealing peek – at two Johns: John Bruton and John Redmond.
It seems that Ireland has been deprived by not having a statue of John Redmond. There’s one of him in Westminster (where else?) and John Bruton wants that statue of the other John moved over here, so we can accord him fitting honour.
The writer of the letter doesn’t say we could maybe stagger on without the statue or that maybe John Bruton could commission one (he has the money – Dail pension, EU pension, Meath farmland); he contents himself with reminding us exactly how Redmond and the Easter Rising intersected. He quotes from an election pamphlet issued in support of Count Plunkett, standing for election after the Easter Rising:
“On the evening of the 3rd May 1916, after the English Premier had announced – amid the cheers of the English Whigs and Tories and the Redmondites – that Pearse, MacDonagh and Clarke had been shot that morning, and while Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Cornelius Colbert and Michael O’Hanrahan were lying in the condemned cell, John Redmond rose in the British House of Commons and said: ‘This outbreak happily seems to be over. It has been dealt with with the firmness which was not only right but it was the duty of the Government to so deal with it….I do beg the Government not to show undue harshness or severity to the great masses of those who are implicated, on whose shoulders lies a guilt far different from that which lies upon the instigators and promoters of this outbreak”.
That speaks for itself, I’d say. There will be – there is – a determined effort, through linking the First World War with the Easter Rising, to rehabilitate Redmond. The speech above speaks for itself. The man who energetically promoted the inclusion of Irishmen in the ranks of the British Army so they could go to their deaths in the various hells of the war in France is to be repatriated in the form of his statue being returned, another look taken at his good intentions, his concern to secure Home Rule, etc etc blah blah blah.
That’s why letters like this are valuable: they are the more authentic voice of Ireland, which reminds us of the scorching difference between the attitudes to the Rising back then and the jiggery-pokery of historical rebalancing that the likes of Fine Gael will be involved in over the next year or two. Thanks be to the Letters column of The Irish Times, we get occasionally to peek at the truth.