La na bhFiann by Donal Kennedy

Today, 11 July used be celebrated by Ireland’s Defence Forces as Fenian’s Day with a Holiday to commemorate the first truce between Irish and British forces since the Treaty of Limerick. For, on 11 July 1921 the British sued for peace with the forces of the democratically established Irish Republic. I don’t know whether the Defence Forces still commemorate it.

But it should, because the national movement, its army and the citizens were united as they were not to be again for decades. The general public should also be involved. Ireland, unlike the “United Kingdom” is not a warfare state. Her President, his spouse and relations don’t wear a uniform or have dozens of them to choose from. They don’t wear uniforms for weddings, watch regiments Trooping a Colour or Beating Retreat. They don’t have an Armed Forces Day, celebrity chefs competing to feed their heroes, or veterans wearing their old regimental berets barracking the judiciary or threatening a Taoiseach. Their TV stations don’t have endless reruns of cock and bull heroes nor soundtracks of the Dumbastars’ March.

Ireland is rather more exposed to the glorification of British militarism than is healthy. Celebrating La na bhFiann might be a good start at counterbalancing it. A film should be made based on “Fremantle Mission” the story of the Catalpa and the amazing rescue from Australia of Fenian Prisoners organised  by John Devoy. The escape from the H-Blocks, about a century later was equally brilliant and worthy of filmng. There must be films made in Cuba and other countries struggling against foreign domination which could be dubbed in Irish or English to counter imperial brainwashing.

A healthy internationalism would be a defence against the slavish brown-bosing of John Bull, and advance the day when Robert Emmet’s epitaph can be written.



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