In 1966 Garret tFitzgerald, then a Senator wrote an article for the Economist, a British magazine regarded as serious, for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Garrett’s father, Desmond Fitzgerald, had fought in the GPO, had been elected to the First Dail Eireann, had been responsible for its publicity and edited THE IRISH BULLETIN and had been a Minister for External Affairs and a Minister for Defence in Free State Governments before
1932. He was a poet and friend of Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot before and after his revolutionary and Ministerial Career. Garett’s mother, Mabel, had been a Secretary to George Bernard Shaw. She remained an Ulster Presbyterian and an Irish Republican activist during the War of Independence, and, though she remained married to Desmond, was more sympathetic to those who rejected the “Treaty” and were shot for it , than for the regime which shot them, of which Desmond was a leading member. Desmond Fitzgerald published a short memoir in the 1940s which included his experience of Easter Week, which he maintained was a necessary and justified insurrection.
The Economist accepted Garrett’s article but twisted it to suggest that it was the rash action of a gang of hotheads. Garrett objected and the paper apologised.
The monstrous regiments, nay Legions, of paid hacks, meritless professsors, barmy Bishops, nutty theoreticians posing as serious commentators, have been targets of mine for many years. They would have us believe that Republicans were soft in the head and hard in the heart and mindless adherents of violence.
Some of them believe that narrative history is useless and that chronology is unimportant. Hi-falutin’ theory competes with money as their supreme god.
But I think chronology is important. And I don’t swallow the line that James Connolly or Patrick Pearse were hot-headed irrational militarists.
In May 1912 James Connolly, James Larkin and William O’Brien founded the Irish Labour Party as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress. It was founded to contest elections in a Home Rule Parliament.
The previous month there had been a huge celebration in Dublin of the certainty that after decades of peaceful campaigning Home Rule for Ireland was imminent. There was no war, nor rumour of war, from Nationalists, though Ulster Unionists and their Conservative friends were preparing to resist Home
Rule by force, as was known by everybody. And since 1904 the secretive Committee of Imperial Defence, comprised of leading Tories and Liberal Imperialists was hell-bent on crushing Germany.
The Dublin celebration was covered with patronising admiration by THE TIMES. It was on a Sunday and cheerful . It didn’t have the dour, belligerent, earnestness of Belfast’s Orangemen for whom smiling on the Sabbath meant the smilers were predestined to be damned.
Dublin’s FREEMAN’S JOURNAL reported on the celebration. It noted a speech by a young man whose main interests were education and the restoration of the still-living ancient language of Ireland to all of her people, He spoke in that language and his hopes for education under Home Rule. But he said that if England were to renege on her promises, there were people, including himself, who would be done with her, and meet her with the sword.
Connolly and Larkin founded the Irish Citizen Army in the Summer of 1913, not for Republican insurrection, but to protect workers from attack by the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, who had batoned workers to death during the great lockout. Carson had organised a partisan army, the Ulster Volunteers to fight against Home Rule. The Irish Citizen Army was organised to stop workers being murdered by police.