Tom Hartley speaking at yesterday’s launch in Belfast City Hall
I got a voice message from the Nolan show this morning, asking me if I’d respond to some remarks Ken Wilkinson has apparently made, that anyone who attends events commemorating the Easter Rising is a traitor. I haven’t heard back from them so maybe they’ve found someone with more outlandish views (as neill would put it) on the subject. Anyway, the upside is you get to hear my thinking. (Hands over ears time, neill…)
Firstly, Ken or no one else who doesn’t want to need attend any events commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916. It’s not a royal command attendance or anything. But I gather the invitation to unionists is been made in a spirit of hospitality and inclusiveness. I think we got a glimpse of what that means in Belfast City Hall yesterday, when the programme of commemorative events was launched. After the Lord Mayor and Tom Hartley of Sinn Féin had spoken, there was a dramatic presentation of an argument between a woman who’s just come with the news that James Connolly has been shot dead and a young Irish soldier who sees his duty as being to fight in the Great War. Both sides of the argument were vigorously presented and roundly applauded.
That’s because history is a complex thing – and, whether we like it or not, shared. The Ulster Volunteers in the north begat the Irish Volunteers in the south – and, it’s possible to argue, the Easter Rising. It’s only through looking at these things and seeing the linkage between them that we can avoid the enmities and divisions of the past. I would have thought that a commendable approach.
But would attendance be treachery, as Ken Wilkinson maintains? Well you could consider it that if you see attendance at any of the events as turning your back on your Britishness and embracing republicanism. I don’t think anyone in the nationalist/republican community would interpret attendance in such a way. They’d be more likely to commend the attendee for their openness and breadth o f vision. Which brings us to the big stumbling block in the way of Ken’s treachery argument: was Queen Elizabeth a traitor when, a few years ago, she stood with bowed head at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin?
Footnote: here’s the link to my brief interview with Tom Hartley in Belfast City Hall yesterday https://www.periscope.tv/w/aP4AoTEwNzUwNTF8MXZBeFJaRW1NWlB4bF-b9em5-oVMyJfuUggdlzo3E8zOv82yecKzjiucY02B
Are Unionists / loyalists, ready to commemorate our divided past and engage with Historical narratives anathema to their own? I feel many of them aren’t and Ken Wilkinson, illustrated this, this morning.
Putting the Rising in context,the setting up of the UVF in 1913 brought the gun back into Irish politics and in effect gave the IRB the lifeline they had been waiting for – unionism, indirectly, contributed to the Easter Rising-they need to accept this and understand they had a role in creating the conditions of the Rising. Carson and Crawfords gunrunning episode created a militaristic mindset in Irish society – there was no going back from this! I recall Prof Michael Laffan stating that Carson and his cronies would have been appalled at what they created – the mindset of violence, the threat of militarism making headway, threatening the British at the point of a gun would reap benefits! And Unionists criticise the Rising …
This “illegal coup” Unionists cite as the Easter Rising, this “stab in the back” to the Empire, was in an atmosphere of Unionists playing the extra parliamentary card, albeit, against a British government that governed the UK, they so dearly wanted to belong too! The Ulster Covenant stating Unionists “would use all means necessary” to prevent Home Rule – is this not rebellious talk? Is this not fighting talk? So Republicans, use all means necessary, military means, and Unionists want to air brush this as well as negatively impose language such as “traitors” et al to suit “their narrative”? Unionists often cite their commitment to WW1-was their commitment based on preventing Home Rule or support for the empire – the same commitment from the British wasn’t reciprocated, as Unionists and Nationalists were used as canon fodder!
What’s frustrating is any understanding by Ken and other Unionists,of the context of the Rising and why Irish Rebels, felt the need to try and overthrow British imperialism, the same imperialism the majority of Irieh people rose up against in the aftermath of the Rising! This notion of protecting and fighting for small nations is so far from the truth … Britain went to War, fearful of the growth of Germany, as a world power, that would put pressure on them – the freedom of small nations became the justification to the watching world – same way Blair went into Iraq on the basis of weapons of mass destruction – the rational excuse, people will fall for! Ireland as a small nation, the majority, opted for a country governed by a Dublin Parlimanent-the minority prevented this! Democratic? The British government under Asquith accepted and appeased this Unionist growth and militarism! So why did Britain not defend Ireland as a small nation, even if is what they were about?
Ba goom, TheHist – you know your history…
“The Ulster Covenant stating Unionists “would use all means necessary” to prevent Home Rule – is this not rebellious talk? Is this not fighting talk?”
Indeed Hist and what about the earliest Unionist threat “Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right”. Was that not a call to rebellion?
Furthermore, Carson was lunching with the Kaiser in September 2013, begging for arms to help Ulster loyalists
And in the Curragh Mutiny “the forces of the crown were defied and men seduced from their allegiances”
Unionist/Loyalist cherry-pick their own history to suit their uber-Brit nationalist narrative
Jim – I don’t know the man so I can’t say. But I’m trying to get people to cut back on slagging without supporting evidence. I’m sure you’ll understand…
While the ‘war of the cousins’ was acted out in Belfast, bigger fish were being fried in Westminster. Much to the chagrin of the British Prime Minister and Mr Osborne, unelected Labour and Liberal Lords have defeated a financial matter passed by the elected House of Commons. Peers also voted in favour of a motion by the former Labour minister Lady Hollis by 307 to 277 votes, to halt the cuts until the government produces a scheme to compensate low-paid workers for three years. A bastion of wealth, status and privilege has spooked those in the House of Commons. It would appear that some of the peers are worth every penny of their attendance fees and heavily subsidised champagne. Local peers also played a role in the defeat of the Mr Osborne’s cunning plan to create further disparities in wealth. While some of the Lords and Ladies are revolting, some of our elected representatives remain determined to inflict unprecedented expenditure cuts on some of the most vulnerable groups in society.
The other talking point in London was of course, Spectre, a darling acronym, Joxer. Where would we be without a Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. There was even a televised interview with two nice MI6 agents explaining how they protect the civilized world from all sorts of evil. 007 with his licence to kill and cause mayhem here and there was available to entertain all and sundry members of a royal family, one we were told was wearing elegant footwear, a bargain at £550.
Thank you Jim – I think we can agree on that 🙂 . You’re an OK guy too, I’d say…
Jude a good guy well some of the times maybe ; )
To answer your core point if I as a unionist went to a 1916 commemoration would I be a traitor in some peoples eyes yes and in others no I would imagine many republicans would be in a similar position if they were invited to se the Queen or go on an army function.
The reality is you have to do what you think is right at that time.
Would I go to a 1916 commemoration in Dublin probably not would I stop anybody else going or would I try to stop the event the answer would be no.
It worries me but I’m in complete agreement, neill. No one should feel pressured to commemorate/celebrate or anything else, otherwise it’s worthless – hypocrisy even. That said, I think opening up to others with contrary thinking is the sign of a civilized person.
A good post, Neill. It’s a pity you won’t go to any of the 1916 commemorations, as I’m sure you would be more than welcome.
I think you are every logical on this Neill. I would never expect a unions to celebrate the actions of a small group to attempt to brake the union they hold so dear. Of course Unionists should be invited but I am afraid they probably would be ‘traitors’ to the unionist cause if they attended. If the commemoration was to commemorate the Irish who were killed and the British soldiers then that would be different, but the rising was an ‘illegal’ action to break the link with Britain- and (from a unionist perspective) attack the Idea of Protestant supremacy in Ireland.
The Irish Volunteers, na Oglaigh, were not begat of the UVF only in the ‘south’ .
My great Grand-father, and Grand-father were both members, one a commander, unlike some, they had no intention of ‘defending small nations’ when their own needed just that, which they bravely did at Easter 1916.
There certainly were traitors to the occupying regime but, they were those brits who occasioned the curragh mutiny, not those who fought for our own freedom from Hun (see comment above re: war of the cousins) oppression in our country.
It could be argued that Unionists in April 1914 were traitors. They imported 25,000 German rifles ,to be used against the British ,in the event of Home Rule being granted. They were preparing to kill the British to remain British…..a sort of perverted logic that remains an ongoing philosophy within Unionism today.These were Irishmen who were about to be granted a limited autonomy over their own affairs , but they ,then as now, were so paranoid and insecure that instead of taking a few tentative steps forward they would conspire to ” using all means which may be found necessary ” to hide behind the cloak of Empire.Their freedom of religious expression was not threatened ,their place within the Empire was not jeopardized and the role of their beloved Monarch was secure….I’m at a loss to understand the sagacity of their thoughts.
“I’m at a loss to understand the sagacity of their thoughts.”
I think they fear that without the british military in occupation to fall back on, they fear that we might treat them as badly as they did to us.
Seamus, in 1914 Unionists rebelled against those who they declared undying loyalty to (aka the British Crown) because their privileged position (at the expense of Catholics) within society was threatened. I’m not being “anti-Unionist”, I’m simply stating the reality and truth. Unionism is loyal to their privileges. If Home Rule had occurred then the majority in Ireland would’ve had greater control over their own affairs, Unionism lead by Carson, opposed this. Basically they opposed democracy unless it was in their favour. When Northern Ireland came into being they didn’t oppose their own version of Home Rule when they had their own Prime Minister of NI, again because they could keep their privileged position in society.
If/when Catholics become the majority in NI and Sinn Fein/SDLP gain the most seats in the Stormont Assembly, do you think Unionism will want to have majority rule back then? I doubt it very much.
Unionism isn’t hard to work out. Its actually very simple to work out.
On the surface, Esteemed Blogmeister, the battle of Lily and Poppy sounds like an ongoing contretemps between two next-door neighbouring harpies.
Possibly to do with Harpie Number I’s pet Irish wofhound (in all probability called Mulligan) being in the habit of depositing his number two in the garden of Harpie Number 2. His not inconsiderable number two, be it noted
With the ultimate outcome to be decided by handbags at twenty paces at the Dawning of the Day. As a result, no doubt, of Harpie Number 2 aka Poppy reaching her ne plus ultra and resorting to calling the other: ‘Lily the Pooh’..
When John Delaney, Fun-loving Fuhrer of the F.A.I., was eavesdropped belting out a G and T (as distinct from a R and B) version of ‘The Ballad of Joe McDonnell’ last year in a designer scruffy snug hard by the Aviva Stadium he was roundly blitzkreiged by the horror stricken hacketariat.
Compelling him to take an off-side Trappist vow of silence for the next six home games. Which wasn’t, however, as far reaching a punishment as it might sound. While being indubitably an Oscar Wilde-look alike not even his greatest fan (i.e. himself) would ever accuse John Delaney of being an Oscar Wilde-sound alike.So, no real collateral damage done there.
The question down on its uppers here, just begging to be asked is: if he had been eavesdropped belting out a G and T (as distinct from a R and B) version of, erm, ‘The Day Delaney’s Donkey won the Half-mile Race’ would he have been pilloried in the Morning Post?
For,as is widely accepted in knowledgeable folklore circles ‘The Day Delaney’s Donkey won the Half-mile Race’ is not actually what it brays on the tin whistle but is rather a clever little allegorical ballad, celebrating the countless gallant peddlers of Mustard Gas from West Britannia who flocked to the Great Donkey Derby 14-18.
When it was either profitable or popular to do so.
‘Now Delaney had a donkey that everyone admired
Temporarily lazy and permanently tired
A leg at every corner balancing his head
And a tail to let you know which end he wanted to be fed’.
Much in the way, say, ‘The Teddy Bear’s Head’ is an allegorical ballad much favoured by the let’s-go mezzo-soprano of Lily the Pooh:
‘Her head is on the North Coast
In Derry, Antrim and Down,
I’m sure her head would be better off
Without the bloody Crown’.
Poppy, after she has taken her compulsory G and T too many on board is regularly heard to get her stain-removing contralto around ‘The Day Delaney’s Donkey won the Half-mile Race’ and in a R and B version, not.
(Curious how such representatives from the animal kingdom as Donkeys and Teddy Bears have featured in allegorical political ballads on the Island of Ire Land but so far, peculiarly enough, none has featured an alligator. In a land whose media is chockablock with hacks who never tire of making ad hoc allegations as to who is a chuckyhead and who is not,this is indeed passing strange).
All this will come to a head (f not a chuckyhead) in the next week or so when the ROI soccer football team come up against Bosnia Herzogovina.in the (gasp) Euro It’s a Knockout ! competition.
Archcrook Franz Ferdinand !
And the question on nobody’s lips is: will the wee M.O.N., bainisteoir/ manager of ROI (ROY is the bainisteoir cunta/ bag carrier ) proudly parade his Poppy on his loyal left lapel as this OBE and former bogballer with Padraig Pearse;s of Kilrea, County Londonderry is wont to do.
Not just on the Mainland from Old Trafford to Newcaslte this time but here on the western off-shore island called ROI-land. (Ditto, re ROY of ROI-land. ROY, incidentally,is the guy who takes off and puts back on his beard with the same regularity as MON takes off and puts back on his glasses).
Perkie’s inner pundit personally reckons that the wee MON will ultiamtely opt for the (gasp) Bongball.
Many important points in your article Jude / mar is gnáth but the most important one, for myself, is the reference to the recent actions of the supreme Unionist, the British Queen, Elizabeth Windsor. Can just imagine the graffiti on the walls about her….
Why did you use a photo which makes the man look like a vampire? (Someone had to ask.)
My great grandfather on my fathers side was part of the Easter Rising and I’m greatly proud of that. He survived the Rising and later relocated to Belfast. Would he be bothered if Unionists rejected an invite to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising? No, he would more likely have laughed. My father use to always say about Loyalists: “They are not loyal to anyone but themselves”. I’d bet my house right now the likes of the British Royals would completely agree with that statement, they aren’t stupid.
How does attending a commemoration make any Unionist a “traitor”? Its ridiculous, its the kind of logic that the extremist elements of Unionism has been preaching for decades, centuries even. Its all part of Unionism isolating itself, a siege mentality. And if the majority within Unionism embraces that logic then as Jude has mentioned, what does that make Queen Elizabeth II? She visited Dublin in 2011, bowed and laid a wreath in honour of all those who fought for Irish freedom against Britain, aka the “Old IRA”. There was talk of a British Royal even attending the 1916 commemoration in Dublin. Earlier this year there was a British representative at IRA man Thomas Kent’s state funeral. Yet again, Unionism embraced a narrow minded logic and stupidly went out of its way to object to Thomas Kent getting a state funeral.
The whole point of Republicans inviting Unionists/Loyalists to the 1916 commemoration was in the interests of inclusivity. I think a tiny number of Unionists will turn up but the vast majority wont. Either way, I don’t think many Republicans will even care.