In the 1960s Garret Fitzgerald, who regularly wrote on economics in THE IRISH TIMES, became a BBC correspondent on Ireland and shortly after for THE ECONOMIST. He continued in those roles when he sat in Seanad Eireann in 1965. And he contributed a piece to THE ECONOMIST, at that journal’s request, on the Silver Jubilee on the 1916 Rising in 1966.
As Garret’s father Desmond Fitzgerald had fought in the GPO, the insurgents’ Headquarters,and was elected on Sinn Fein’s Republican ticket in the General Election two years later, served as Dail Eireann’s Director of Publicity and later as Minister of External Affairs,and Minister of Defence in Irish administrations, Garret was well aware of the significance of the Rising, and, like every rational citizen of Ireland honoured the insurgents.
THE ECONOMIST published the piece over the by-line “From our Dublin Correspondent” but introduced the piece thus – “This week fifty years ago a group of hot-heads seized the GPO in Dublin”
Garret, in his autobiography, tells us that the piece was “accompanied by a photograph of de Valera being escorted under arrest by two British soldiers, our President being described under the photograph as ‘one of the hotheads’ “
Garret demanded and got an apology from THE ECONOMIST.
Another half-century passed by and equally half-witted comments appeared in THE TIMES from David Aaronovitch’ to coincide with the Centenary of the Rising. The insurgents, Aaronovitch claimed, after a flying visit to James Joyce’s tower in Sandycove, were impetuous and we Irish should not celebrate bloodthirsty freaks.
.My BLOG – “Joyce’s Martello Tower Revisited ( by THE TIMES)” was published on 7 April 2016 and you can find it online.
I remarked that Dublin had given THE TIMES the renowned journalist William Howard Russell whereas THE TIMES had just given Dublin David Aaronovitch, a poor swap.
I think that the a consideration of two of the executed leaders of the Rising,James Connolly and Patrick Pearse, and of its surviving senior Commandant, Eamon de Valera, might be set against the claim that they were hotheads.
James Connolly was a co-founder of the Irish Labour Party in 1912. He intended that it contest election for the Home Rule Parliament promised by the British Government.
In 1912 Patrick Pearse addressed a pro-Home Rule meeting in O’Connell Street, Dublin. As did John Redmond and others. Many thousands attended the rally, which was on a Sunday. It was covered in a patronising manner by THE TIMES. Nationalists liked to talk, were easy-going folk, without the discipline and seriousness of Ulster Unionists who would not dream of dishonouring the Sabbath with fun and laughter. Pearse was a trained Barrister, a poet, a teacher who ran his own school, was in touch with Rabindranath Tagore,the Bengali poet, playwright, composer and philosopher who won the Nobel Prize for Lierature in 1913, and had the future Nobel Laureate, W.B.Yeats visit his school, St.Endas and meet his pupils.
Pearse was not noticed by THE TIMES, and if he had been he would not have been understood. For he spoke in Irish and said that if Britain reneged on the promise of Home Rule he would advocate armed revolt. Ulster Unionists had been arming since the year before.
In August 1913 Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police killed one man and injured hundreds in Dublin in a baton-charge when the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union’s Leader, James Larkin sought to address workers locked out of their jobs for Union Members. The Ulster Volunteers had been drilling and arming since the year before to resist Home Rule, without hindrance from the authorities. Connolly and Larkin established the Irish City Army as a militia to defend the workers. There was no intention of starting an Insurrection.
Shortly thereafter the IRISH VOLUNTEERS were founded as a counterweight to the Ulster Volunteers, lest the British Government bow to the Unionist threat and welsh on its Home Rule promise.
And in 1914 Britain launched a war that it had been long planning, to smash its trade rival Germany, and suckered scores of thousand of Irish Nationalists into helping with its dirty work. Britain welshed on its promise of Home Rule and prepared to partition Ireland.
The 1916 Rising was probably the only consequence of the Great War which resulted in the net saving of human lives, Irish,German, Austrian, Turkish and other lives. Pearse said that Nationalists would be silly, in the event that England told them Ireland could have its freedom, if they (the Nationalists) told them that they would rather fight them for it.
The 1916 Rising resulted in less Irishmen volunteering for British service, the British abandonment of the attempt to conscript them, the establishment by Irish voters of a Parliament and Republic endorsing the Insurgents’ Prospectus. The 1916 Proclamation promised universal adult suffrage at a time when the British Government had no intention of giving all adult men the vote and had not contemplated giving it to any women.
The Rising served as an inspiration to subject nations worldwide to overthrow Imperialism. Ireland did not withdraw from the world but engaged with it in the cause of liberty and peace.
Where on British bookshelves or in British films can you find a record of British involvement in the League of Nations?
How many commentators will tell you that Mussolini was a British protege and was dubbed by King George V a Knight of the Order of the Bath? The very Order conferred on Sir Keir Starmer by his current Monarch. Or that a forger who served dishonourably in Dublin Castle in 1920 airlifted General Franco from the Canaries to Spanish Morocco in 1935 to impose forty years of murderous Fascism on Spain.
Or that Edward Carson was, in his own lifetime, happy to be hailed as the leader of the First Fascist Movement in Europe?
Pearse was a clear-headed realist. And his faith in the Irish people proved justified. They rose to his vision.
The Belfast-born essayist, Robert Lynd, regarded as the best essayist in the English language since Wiliam Hazlitt, wrote of James Connolly that his was “the most vital democratic mind in the Ireland of his day.”
Lynd was writing in October 1916, when, like other intellectuals, he believed that the Rising was a failure. He said that Irish nationalists had been as much addicted to constitutionalism as to the teapot until the wealthy clubmen in London sent vast quantities of money to Belfast to be used for guns for Carson’s Unionists acting on behalf of the British Conservatives who were backed by the British army. (I have mislaid Lynd’s piece which was printed as a foreword to Connolly’s “Labour in Irish History.”)
Lenin also wrote of the Insurgents, not in their condemnation, but faulted them for timing.
In 1966, in “The Embers ofEaster” Conor Cruise O’Brien, without acknowledging Lenin, said that had they risen a year later they might have succeeded immediately. But Lenin in 1916 had no inkling what might happen in 1917 in Dublin or in Petrograd.
The most perceptive early comment on the Rising was made by General Sir John Maxwell, who had just crushed it and put its leaders before a wall and shot them, except for Connolly, who was shot lying on a stretcher on the ground where he had been dumped by British servicemen – medical orderlies – I think.
“There is a growing feeling that out of Rebellion has been got than by Constitutional methods, hence Mr Redmond’s power is on the wane, therefore this desire to curry favour with the people on the part of M.P.s for the release of Sinn Feiners.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between a Nationalist and a Sinn Feiner…
Recruiting for the war effort (in Ireland) has practically ceased.
If there was a General Election very few, if any, of existing Nationalist MPs would be re-elected so there is a danger that Mr Redmond’s party would be replaced by others perhaps less amenable to reason.”
Quoted in “Fatal Path” by Ronan Fanning, Professor Emeritus of Modern History at University College Dublin.
Shortly after the Rising, C.P.Scott,legendary Editor of THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, and a former Liberal MP, recorded a meeting with John Dillon MP, who, despairing of the future of his party, said that if Sinn Fein acquired an able leader it would sweep the board. The able leader was still in jail, his death sentence having been revoked.
The HOTHEAD de Valera led Sinn Fein to a stunning victory (73 out of 105 Parliamentary Seats in Ireland) in 1918, Dev himself took Dillon’s seat. The HOTHEADED IRISH elected Dev as head of government 10 times between 1919 and 1959 and Head of State from 1959 to 1973.
I’ll return yet again presently to de Valera, perhaps the greatest European statesman of the 20th Century, and the most admired by non-Europeans and non-white-skinned people struggling for human rights.