WHATEVER people may think about our current crop of politicians, one thing the country can certainly be proud of is the manner in which the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising was commemorated this year. It was a credit to all involved, led with great dignity and empathy by President Michael D Higgins, and had an inclusiveness that had been lacking heretofore.
The country’s schoolchildren were taught about what happened with the benefit of more balanced hindsight and studied the noble aspirations of the 1916 Proclamation diligently. Back in 1966, at the time of the 50th anniversary commemorations, the history taught was essentially the De Valera version of events, which was a lot more partisan and underscored by a much stronger anti-British sentiment.
It was also influenced by the fact that, at that stage, a lot of the participants in the fight for Irish freedom were still alive with many of them deeply divided on Civil War lines. They were held in awe by their families and friends for the sacrifices that they had to make in the struggle for Irish freedom.
One could argue that nothing really happened in West Cork at Easter 1916, but there was a lot of Irish Volunteers activity from Beara to Ballinadee and, even though their marches to collect the arms that were to have been landed by the Aud proved futile, they had shown their hand. Most were rounded up and sent to internment camps in England and Wales, which only served to radicalise them further and strengthen their resolve to take on the might of the British Empire on their release.
Members of the Irish Defence Forces played a big part in the lead-up to Proclamation Day in our schools this year and in the numerous commemorative ceremonies that took place throughout the country, which people appreciated and enjoyed with due reverence to the memory of the 1916 leaders. Ironically, the centenary commemorations coincided with the country being ruled by a caretaker government after an inconclusive general election – certainly not what Padraig Pearse would have envisaged a hundred years ago.