EASTER last year saw the commemoration of the centenary of the 1916 Rising in full flow and, as we have written here before, the official ceremonies were dignified, inclusive and a credit to the organisers. The occasion also provided the opportunity to let today’s schoolchildren know, in a more dispassionate and measured way than generations before were taught, about the Rising – but without diminishing its importance or the huge sacrifice made by its leaders.
The ceremonies generated a sense of pride in the idealism of these men and women whose best efforts fell short at the time, but which sowed the seeds to inspire others to fight the subsequent War of Independence and gain an initial form of independence for 26 of our 32 counties through the 1921 Treaty. While it did not fully achieve the aims of the 1916 leaders, it led eventually to the Republic of Ireland we have today.
Now, 101 years on from the Easter Rising, is this country in a better place and is the ultimate aim of a 32-county republic any nearer realisation? Some in the North would say that re-unification is, given the disquiet there over being made part of the British departure from the European Union in spite of the fact that the majority of its population voted in last year’s referendum to remain in the EU.
If Northern Ireland became part a united Ireland, it would remain in the EU and we would not be facing the impending and, most likely, inevitable re-introduction of border controls between North and South. Not having a land border between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the island of Ireland would make life a lot easier for people who live in border areas and those conducting cross-border business, but the reality is that a border poll to try to achieve this is still premature, given that the majority of unionists in the North would not entertain such a proposition.
Sinn Féin have been pushing for a border poll after their noteworthy electoral gains in the Northern Assembly elections last month, but the appetite isn’t there for one amongst the British and Irish governments, who feel the best thing to do now is to co-operate on damage-limitation strategies arising from the Brexit negotiations.
Meanwhile, back in the Republic, this time last year, we had no proper government in place for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising with Enda Kenny acting as caretaker Taoiseach. Some would argue that things have not really changed since then, given the lame-duck nature of the current minority government, led by Fine Gael and supported by a motley crew of independents, all propped up by Fianna Fáil in an arrangement akin to the tail wagging the dog.
This stalemate situation is not what the 1916 leaders envisaged for the country they sacrificed their lives for and they must be turning in their graves at the thought of it.