Six weeks from now Ireland will be marking the one hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Dublin insurrection, or the Easter Rising. Regardless of one’s opinion of the people involved or the revolutionary religio-nationalist and socialist ideas that fuelled the uprising the events of Easter week 1916 in Dublin are integral to the confluence of histories, ideologies, and events which led ultimately to the birth of the Irish Republic. Whether or not Ireland’s independence was possible without the Rising is almost irrelevant, because its actual and iconic reality – during the cauldron of nationalisms context of the 1914-18 imperial war – has become inseparable from modern Ireland’s self-understanding. Yet this has not stopped the refined ideologues of official Ireland from attempting a public and celebratory whitewash of our story.
Ireland Inspires 2016, the Fine Gael governed state’s hugely controversial television ad showcasing the centenary, famously and cynically ignored any reference to the Rising. In its place was a grovelling homage to the neoliberal new colonialism of multinational corporations like Google and Facebook to which our economy is in thrall, and a centrepiece image of the Queen of England whose grandfather’s military forces brutalised this nation during both the Rising and the War of Independence. Arnotts department store on Henry Street, a company that in 1916 stood firmly against the Republican cause, is right now capitalising on the anniversary with a front window display of fashion design inspired by the women of the Rising.
The RTÉ serialised dramatisation Rebellion was nothing more than a sedative for memory, and today on College Green, ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city, Dublin City Council has emblazoned the former parliament building with a massive green canvas proclaiming 1916-2016 with other heroes – wholly unrelated to the people of the Rising. What the blazes is going on? It has become obvious to all but the very dim and the wilfully ignorant that there is a conspiracy of official Ireland – the Ireland of counterrevolution – to inflict upon this country a collective amnesia. This revolution most definitely will not be televised.
We have to ask why the leaders of modern Ireland, together with the instruments of their class, are so ashamed or frightened by an authentic commemoration of what really happened. Let’s cut to the chase; the 1916 Rising was never their history. It has always been the story of an incomplete revolution, a revolution that even today threatens to turn their incomplete and failed state upon its head. In austerity Ireland 1916 has been the rallying point of popular resistance against the class warfare of social spending cuts, water charges, and aggressive policies targeted by the ruling élite at the working people. Nowhere has this been more evidenced than in official Ireland’s nostalgic wet dream over the gentry at war fighting for the colonial oppressor in Europe.