It is good to learn of the recent news that one of the two original tricolors unfurled at the GPO buildings during the 1916 Easter Rising is now in the good hands of the folk at the American Irish Historical Society.
Some comment has been raised about such a historically precious artifact, so central to the narrative of Irish independence, belonging on Irish soil, but to raise such heckles is to be totally oblivious to the point that Irish America was also at the heart of this independence movement.
That the American Irish Historical Society, with its traditional warm welcome and its dedication to the motto of its founding patrons, “That the world may know” now hosts the flag is entirely appropriate. The Society’s mission since the time of Teddy Roosevelt’s involvement and before to Thomas Hamilton Murray in the 1880s has been to bring to light the history of the Irish people. The history of the Irish people, with all of its complexities and varying shades of green, has never been exclusive to mere national boundaries - a 70 million diaspora can bear witness to this.
This may not be apparent to those such as John McColgan, director of “Riverdance”, who opined in a TV interview aired during the past week that Michael Flatley’s post “Riverdance” career has been less authentic due to its cultural fusion with his American homeland. Nor is it apparent to the broadcaster Pat Kenny, who earns handsomely from the Irish tax payer, and has more than once touted his opposition to Irish people abroad who don’t contribute to the state coffers being entitled to vote in Ireland.
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Waterford’s own Thomas Francis Meagher, the Young Irelander who, with Boru’s descendant William Smith O’Brien, brought home the first Irish tricolor from French shores, would surely approve of this latest acquisition though. Having been condemned to death for leading sedition in Ireland, he later led the Irish Brigade of the Union army in some the bloodiest campaigns of the American Civil War, and became a later governor of Montana.
He wrote of his decision to lead the Irish Brigade: “it is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States”. Meagher’s own papers are amongst the collection held at the recently restored American Irish Historical Society’s 5th Avenue home.
The GPO itself, having received a stay of execution from Bertie’s plans for a shopping mall, etc., remains open as it has since 1818 for its original purpose as the nerve center for mail distribution in Ireland and remains in decent working condition. It is to be hoped that in the future No. 16 Moore Street will be umbillicaly linked with the GPO in a responsive, dignified and relevant vision and pragmatic plan for the appropriate honoring of the centenary of the Easter Rising. The Alamo of the Easter Rising, where the 1916 rebels of O’Connell Street made their last stand after tunneling through the burning ruins from O’Connell Street.
Some of the workers told the Celtic Times that the plans for a theater aren’t going down too well either, but given that it was a poet’s uprising, the likes of McDonagh, Pearse, Plunkett et al would hardly be averse to a new national theatre taking some kind of residence within an overall living heritage site of the free people Connolly envisaged.
It could truly reverberate on Ireland’s main street and beyond. One champion of this national theater project is Senator David Norris, who has had a rough week of it in his Irish presidential campaign bid. Whatever the outcome, and indeed it may be a good citizen of this great Irish American parish who becomes Ireland’s next president, that person will be presiding over a nation who’s fate is near as perilous as the one which confronted the first president of the Irish Republic’s government amidst the burning embers of the GPO. Perhaps a new republic is the antidote. Anyone for seconds?
It is after all a time to be bold. This was something which the recently departed finance minister Brian Lenihan preached. It was something of a tragedy that a man with his depth of intelligence and courage could have been so central to the fateful architecture of guarantees given to institutions now subject to criminal inquiries.
His strongest supporters have referred in their eulogies to his critical Achilles heel as being the inability to say no, something which the ferociously hungry hordes of self serving senior civil servants no doubt preyed upon when having seen their frontline colleagues in the public service from firemen to teachers experience unprecedented cuts, they successfully lobbied for immunity from such on December 23 2009, betraying a horrible instinct for self preservation instead of public service when there was but a carcass left to nurse their demands.
They even managed to get the €200 levy sidelined for the annual parking fees which cost the state €9 million a year! That December date as much as the bank guarantees will remain etched in the minds of many who have had to meet things head on, and they are part of a vested straitjacket that will have to be removed given their collective responsibility for the advice given to Lenihan in those decisive days of September 2008.
On a human level, I couldn’t help but think of the lot of politicians with Lenihan’s departure, men like Minister Seamus Brennan who I met with at Leinster House in the context of a National Sports Museum for the Shannon Region when he was but months away from his own death from cancer. Tony Killeen was also present, a man fighting cancer.
The late minister also had a special bond with the Celtic Times in that we both led winning 5 a side teams in NUI Galway, although the fact that our team FC Hungover happened to pip a side that went by the name LSD Eindhoven has not painted this parish’s achievements in a glowing light in comparison.
Perhaps Luke Ming Flanagan, TD for South Leitrim Roscommon would empathize. Speaking of which, I haven’t got the latest update on his campaign on the right to bear slains and man the bogs of Ireland, but this column from its endeavors last week in the moors of west Clare most wholeheartedly recommends footing turf as a perfect aid in facilitating tight hamstrings; perhaps it is why the auld one say there were no hamstrings in their days but decapitations maybe with the like of the Iron Man of Rhode around.
|At the East Clare Heritage Interactive Turf Exhibition are the hardy boys of Lough Derg, Ger Madden and Paddy Gleeson|
Incidentally East Clare Heritage in Tuamgraney, Ireland’s oldest continually used church from the time of Boru, has a turf exhibition worth catching at the moment if around the stunning Lough Derg district. If the regulator’s office ever decide to take down the turf-cutters, they may yet have to pay a visit to a White House hopeful, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, who has previous as a teenager when it comes to saving turf in his ancestral Clare homeland.