It is true that the Easter Rising should have been unnecessary, but that the Easter Rising was the only way for the Irish people to gain independence is sadly also true. The reason is that the British had no intention at the time or for the foreseeable future to grant Ireland full independence.
John Bruton is touting the passage of the Home Rule Bill this week as if it would have granted Ireland some form of Dominion status. The real facts are that the Autonomy Bill would have given Ireland the kind of status Wales now enjoys and far less than Scotland already achieved 100 years later.
Home Rule would have left all the central powers of any state under the control of Westminster, including foreign affairs and the right to have our own army.
The British establishment’s entrenched resistance to democracy, self-determination and the rights of small nations to determine their own destiny became evident after the end of World War I, which we are told was fought for this same right.
His reaction to the 1918 general election in Ireland, when the majority of the people elected by the people democratically established their own parliament, the Dáil Éireann, was to immediately ban the Dáil.
That 1916 was fought to establish the right of this country to choose its own democratic form of government, without external control, is clear from the proclamation of 1916, which speaks of “the establishment of a permanent, representative national government. of the whole people. of Ireland and elected by the votes of all its men and women ”.
It is also important to place the Uprising in the context of its time, when war was rampant across Europe and beyond and where many Irish people were said to face fighting for Ireland at home. or on the slaughter fields of mainland Europe.
Bruton refers to the “successful path of nonviolent parliamentary Home Rule” as opposed to the “path of physical violence, initiated by the IRB and the Citizen Army during Easter week 1916”.
The price to pay for following the limited option of Home Rule was that the Irish would have been forced to wage all subsequent Imperial wars on behalf of Britain. The fact that John Redmond believed this is clear from his call to Woodenbridge for Volunteers to enlist and the involvement of his family members and supporters in WWI.
That many more Irish died in this Imperial War than in 1916 and the War of Independence combined is a fact. That recruiting for the British Army in Ireland dried up after the uprising is also a fact, saving many lives. Without the Uprising’s success in awakening the Irish people, it is likely that Britain would have succeeded in enforcing conscription in 1918, causing many more needless Irish deaths.
Full independence has enabled Ireland, in the meantime, to engage in international affairs and to lend its efforts at the international level to the maintenance of peace under the banner of the United Nations. It has kept us away from the wars of power in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to name a few. In addition, the countless lives saved in WWII by Irish independence should not be overlooked.
Politicians often use historical events for current purposes. For this reason, I think it is important that all Irish people understand the ideals and motivations of the 1916 uprising and its leaders so that we continue to preserve the sovereign independence of this state in its relations with other nations. More importantly, we must jealously guard ourselves against anything that would engage us in the geopolitical conflicts of the great powers in circumstances where such engagement is beyond our control. Ireland’s role should be that of a beacon of peace and reconciliation in the world.
We have seen this happen gradually over the past few years. I wonder if those like John Bruton really think this is the best fate for this nation.
Éamon Ó Cuív is a Fianna Fáil TD