Is the Irish government making plans to commemorate the creation of partition in 1921?
That could be the inference of a speech by Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at the Fine Gael national conference last weekend.
Flanagan has been impressive as foreign minister and did a very good job on the North negotiations before Christmas, but any notion by his government of selling partition as something to commemorate is roughly akin to commemorating the virtues of apartheid in South Africa.
We can understand the need to commemorate the First World War where many Irish died, and to pay homage to both sides, but commemorating partition is a folly like no other. It was the worst disaster since the Famine.
It split the country, created the Irish Civil War in which 4,000 Irish were killed and led to 50 years of apartheid government and the subsequent IRA campaign in Northern Ireland.
It has only been since the peace process of the early 1990s that responsible leadership on both sides has ended the sectarian nature of the Northern state.
Partition is the ultimate red blotch on the history of the Orange and Green. Thousands of lives were lost as a result of it, laws were defied, police brutality was institutionalized, discrimination was encouraged and it still remains a running sore.
The Irish government has already been taken to task on their lack of plans to commemorate the birth of the Irish nation on Easter 1916. Now comes this.
Speaking on Ireland 2016 at the Fine Gael national conference last weekend, Flanagan “emphasized the importance of reconciliation when approaching commemorations.” according to a Fine Gael press release.
The minister stated, “We cannot allow the centenary commemorations themselves to become a divisive issue. Since the beginning of the Decade of Centenaries in 2012, considerable effort has been invested in commemorating key events in a more inclusive and historically accurate way...
“Northern Ireland itself will have to mark its own centenary in five years’ time. Again this will present significant challenges for them. It is in our mutual best interests to work closely together to encourage a collective north-south approach to respecting each others’ key commemorations."
It is hardly the task of the Irish Republic to assist in the commemoration of partition. How do we pat the Northern Unionists on the head and say well done for the gun running, the intimidation, the pogroms, the establishment of a Protestant state for a Protestant people? Maybe we can help reenact the 1935 Orange Order riots that burned 2,000 Catholics out of their homes?
Partition was the act of undermining the free vote of the Irish people in 1918 to have a united Ireland. Over 70 percent of those who voted did so for that outcome.
Instead the British imposed an arbitrary line on a map, corralling 350,000 Nationalists into a state they neither wanted nor were wanted in, creating the longest running war in Europe and a fractured identity and deep wounds unhealed to this very day.
Why should the Irish people help commemorate such an utter disaster?