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Notes from Exile

The Terrible Beauty! Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising, Its World Significance
Posted by David Irby on Apr 23, 2006 - 6:09:00 PM

IRELANDAs I write, Ireland is celebrating its equivalent of the 4th of July, the Easter Rebellion of 1916.  But this is the first time in years for large-scale official celebrations, because the government has feared that these might fuel conflict in the northern part of this country.


The rebellion actually started on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, when a handful of armed men and a few women took over the (British) General Post Office in O'Connell Street, Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic.  But the battle, which they began lasted less than a week, after which its leaders were executed. 


The events were a catalogue of confusion and missed connections. Had the rebel's plans come anywhere close to full realization, tens of thousands of "Irish Volunteers" would have been out throughout the country and the war that they would have fought could very well have broken Britain's back at a time when World War I hung in the balance.


America had not yet entered the war; indeed one of the rebel's main aims was to prevent it.  But that was a failure too. 

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

So, another typically quixotic Irish rebellion—or so it seemed.  But Easter 1916 was different in that it set off a chain of events which actually led to a genuinely independent Irish state in large measure in 1923, and fully realized by 1949.


But why should this interest Canyon News readers?  The international significance of what I reland has achieved is not enough appreciated.  It should be remembered that in 1916, Ireland was nothing more than a backwater in what was then "The United Kingdom", seat of the world's most powerful empire. 


So the success of the independence movement which was kick-started by the 1916 rebellion made people from New Deli to Nairobi realize that, if such a small people at the very center of the Empire could achieve so much independence, they could too. 


And while the independence movements in those countries have been as varied as their peoples, many have not only drawn inspiration from the Irish independence movement, but have emulated it in many ways.  For good or for ill, Mao Zedong, Vietnam's Vo Nguyen Giap and Menachem Begin were all influenced by such books as Tom Barry's "Guerilla Days in Ireland."  And similarly, Ireland's constitution became the model for those of India and other newly independent countries.


So the events of 1916 led to much more re-shaping of the world, and especially what had been "The British Empire" than many realize.  So the Irish of today have much to celebrate; an Ireland which is not free merely, but inordinately prosperous and confident, as well.


Of course though, not all of the aspirations of 1916 have been realized.  Most importantly, reunification with "The North" has not yet been achieved.


But here a process is going on which is hardly ever mentioned and which parallels in many ways one in California and other parts of the area, which the USA took unjustly from Mexico in 1848.  Here it is important to remember that here, the terms, "Catholic" and "Protestant" are not so much descriptions of religious belief as they are ethnic identifications for the native Gaelic population and those whose ancestors were "planted" here from the 16th Century onward. 


The 1916 Proclamation of Independence extended the hand of friendship to the latter, saying that religious liberty would be guaranteed and that all of "the children of the nation would be cherished equally."  Unfortunately that is a hand of friendship which most of Ireland is still waiting for that minority grasp, and every Irish person knows that the "Border" which defines the area still under British rule was drawn specifically to create an artificial "Protestant" majority there and almost all of the subsequent history of that statelet has been one of brutal repression of the Catholics there, to keep the minority from becoming the majority.

But the result of the events of the last 30 years, which culminated in the current "Peace Process", has changed all of that and now the Catholic population is increasing, so that it will be the majority within 20 years.  This is a process which is now inexorable and all of the fulminations of "The North's" currently leading politician, the ultra-Fundamentalist anti-Catholic bigot, Paisley, cannot stop it. 

And the same is to be said of the ultra-right-wing Republicans in the US Congress who are trying to block relatively "progressive" immigration legislation.  Just as in South Africa, the rightful inheritors of the land are reclaiming it.  So, Hooray for 1916! And, Viva la huelga!


Cliffside Malibu




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