‘1916: a toxic thread of physical violence?’ by Donal Kennedy

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“Nineteen-sixteen introduced a terribly-toxic thread of physical violence, and we’ve had a century of it ever since.”  Thus Ruth Dudley Edwards is quoted in THE IRISH TIMES Weekend Review  of 2nd January.

Ms Dudley Edwards was born in Dublin in 1944 and has lived there much of her life. Dublin has suffered little violence since the Civil War ended in 1923, and the same can be said of Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, and Kilkenny. Perhaps in Europe only  the cities of Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal have enjoyed such freedom from violence. Such freedom was not fortuitous. Swiss, Swedish and Portuguese Governments chose not to embroil themselves in war. Irish Governments did likewise. And there would have been no Irish Governments to save most of Ireland from war had Pearse, Connolly and their comrades not staged an Insurrection in 1916 and presented the prospect of citizenship, rather than subjection, to the Irish people.

Pearse and Connolly put their names to the Republican prospectus, unlike a correspondent to the IRISH TIMES of 1st January 1916 quoted in the paper’s Weekend Review of 2nd January 2016.  That correspondent wanted conscription, which was about to be enforced in Britain, to be extended by Britain to Ireland. The Rising ensured that Britain never dared to do so.By Easter 1916 Britain had been engaged in the Great War for nearly nineteen months and a very toxic multi-strand cable of violence created which continues to this day. Witness Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, for instance.

This year will see the sixtieth anniversary of the sordid Anglo-French-Israeli Suez aggression. Ireland would have shared in that and other Imperial stunts had it not been for the Irish electorate’s acceptance of the prospectus offered them by Pearse and Connolly in 1916.

Ms Dudley Edwards invites us to “cast a cold, clear eye on the tradition Ireland has embraced”  which she categorises as “all about killing people.”   Her nod may be as good as a wink to a blind horseman.But those  with clear eyes, like the Irish electorate of 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921 and later knew that the tradition was not about killing people. It was about not killing people at the behest of the British Government. It was anti-militarist. British policy in 1916 was militarist then and cannot be absolved of the charge a century later.


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8 Responses to ‘1916: a toxic thread of physical violence?’ by Donal Kennedy

  1. Donal Kennedy January 3, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    Correction: Ruth Dudley Edwards was born in 1944.

  2. Joe McVeigh January 3, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Ruth D.Edwards is a propagandist for the British government and will never look for or see the truth about Britain’s role in killing and humiliating Irish people.She is a sad racist with a closed mind.

  3. Cushy Glen January 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    Perhaps Dudley Edwards needs to be reminded where the notion of political violence in Ireland in the 20th century originates?

    You need look no further than her fellow Irish Unionists who in 1912 were the first to threaten Her Majesty’s government with armed rebellion if they did not get their way. They formed a paramilitary group (Ulster Volunteers), drilled openly & imported arms openly.

    It was the success of the UVFs threat of violence against the state that inspired Irish republicans to stage their own rebellion in 1916. This must be remembered as we commemorate events 100 years ago.

    Ms Edwards would like to forget certain elements.

  4. Brian Patterson January 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

    These articles are the stock in trade of the Indo; they are a form of Chinese water torture, a discordant tune played over and over by a tone deaf child on penny whistle. Not surprising really when you consider that the Irish Independent in 1913 exulted in the beatings meted out to Dublin workers by the DMP and bayed for the execution of Connolly in 1916.

    Meanwhile in the Irish Times that tormented genius Patsy McGarry referred to the men and women of 1916 as ‘ the suicide bombers if their day’. (Patsy is the ‘Religious Correspondent of that organ but doubtless felt constrained to suspend any sentiments of Christian charity when referring to such people). Hacks such as RDE, McGarry and Eoin Harris lament the bypassing of the ‘democratic process’ by the rebels,omitting to mention that successive English Governments continued to defy the democratically expressed will of the Irish people for independence and frustrate the Irish Party’s attempts to wheedle a measure oh Home Rule out of Westminster.
    They shed crocodile years about the civilians killed in the rising. No condemnation of British Artillery use of heavy artillery is.mentioned, nor the fact that numerous massacres of civilians were carried out by the British troops.

    Another Indo contributor Liam Kennedy refers to alleged atrocities carried out by the Germans against Belgian civilians. He makes no mention of the genocide committed inn the Congo, up to 10 million Congolese massacred by ‘gallant little Belgium.’ (Ironically the man who did most to arouse international opprobrium against Belgian genocide, Roger Casement, was hanged for his involvement in the Rising) None of the revisionists who wring their hands over violence perpetrated by Irish Republicans seem aware that seven million civilians died unnecessarily in the gratuitous catharsis of 1918, wherein Redmond had pledged full support to the murderous rapine of the Empire. And while a Google of Edith Cavell brings up 450,000 results, a similar search for Julia Van Warterghen, a heavily pregnant young mother executed by the Belgians results in a mere 49 (no, not 49000, just 49!) Two German nurses executed by the French and British, Margaret Schmidt and Ottilie Moss fare little better worse bringing up only 519 results the vast majority having no connection with the ladies in question. Proving,as Napoleon asserted, that history is “a fable agreed upon”. Or as Henry Ford said more succinctly, “History is bunkum!”

  5. Joe Nolan January 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    Even by the high standards of Donal Kennedy’s work, this is an exceptionally insightful article. It gets to the nub of the double-standards in regard to political violence as preached by the RDE’s of this world. It should be mandatory reading for all students of history in 2016. Well done.

  6. Séamus Ó Néill January 4, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    i shouldn’t get too vexed or annoyed about about the RDE’s of this world….Like “pop-stars” and television presenters,they suffer from an over valuation of self…..that delusional idea of self-importance……she may even believe the drivel she spouts ! As for O’Brien and his gutter press…..such is the literary value of his rag ,the “independent” ,that it’s given away free in hope that some semi-literate fools will believe the inane gibberish that is printed. Having lived through everything that the British War Machine could through at us from 1969 onwards ….. murder ,torture, propaganda etc etc and a very compliant Free State Government I think we can handle this little “inconvenience”

  7. pointis January 4, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    Ruth Dudley Edwards is probably one of the most hated ‘home grown’ columnists in the Irish press. Although unpopular, people have a magnetic attraction to read what outrageous comments she has come out with today or who she has been nasty or hurtful to. She is the ‘lady P’ in I am a celebrity which the producers were at pains to keep in the show despite the fact she was being accused of verbally abusing all the other competitors and being a generally dislikable person.

    Stephen Nolan uses the same trick by bringing Katie Hopkins on his show to be abusive to the poor and vulnerable to bolster the number of angry respondents who call the show.

    So the next time you read an outrageous comment by Ruth just remember ‘P’ or what my mind has converted that to ‘pish’.


  1. THE NEWS LETTER - NOT CHAPMAN'S HOMER? by Donal Kennedy - Jude Collins - April 19, 2016

    […] Perhaps it’s because I was born in “de Valera’s Ireland”  described by the impartially observant David Trimble as “mono-cultural” quoted with the endorsement of Ben Lowry, Deputy Editor of the NEWSLETTER, whose “OPINION” in that paper was reprinted in THE IRISH TIMES on April 11. I’m no John Keats, who, on first looking into Chapman’s Homer, was moved to praising Chapman in verse. Nor does reading Ben Lowry’s opinion move me to giving his paper a second look. I was born in 1941 when de Valera was Taoiseach and Dubhghlas de hIde Uachtaran. The Uachtaran was fluent in French and German and Greek and Hebrew,Latin and English, as well as Irish. He was a practising Communicant of the Church of Ireland, in a country whose people were overwhelmingly members of the Church of Rome. De Valera’s newspaper, THE IRISH PRESS, although mainly written in English, also had pieces in Irish, as had the other Dublin dailies, even the Unionist Irish Times. Those citizens schooled since 1922 were to some extent familiar with Irish, and most of them, being Catholics, were not altogether ignorant of Latin. In that last respect they were in the European mainstream, for most Europeans of that time had been baptised by the Church of Rome. I don’t know what languages, other than standard English, have graced or disgraced the pages of THE BELFAST NEWSLETTER since de Valera was elected for Clare in 1917. Mr Lowry writes that “the legitimacy of the Rising has been challenged not just by revisionist writers such as Ruth Dudley Edwards and Kevin Myers but by Catholic critics such as David Quinn, John Larkin and Fr. Seamus Murphy, as well as a political moderate, David Ford.” He goes on to state that “one of the most read recent stories on THE BELFAST NEWSLETTER website was the 3,500-word speech by John Bruton, who demolishes the idea that 1916 was a just war.”  It would be interesting to know  how far Mr Lowry’s paper has gone to give those who dispute, dent, or even demolish the arguments of his favourite polemicists any space in his paper or on its website. Father Seamus Murphy SJ is an inventor of history rather than an informed commentator, for he states that Daniel O’Connell never shot anybody. I have seen no evidence that Patrick Pearse, Michael Collins or Eamon de Valera actually shot anyone. But it is a fact, acknowledged by O’Connell himself, that he shot John d’Esterre dead in 1815. Mr Lowry’s “revisionist” authorities are considered “distortionist” by some of us. http://www.judecollins.com/2016/01/1916-a-toxic-thread-of-physical-violence-by-donal-kennedy/ […]