The great-grandson of social activist, union leader and Easter Rising leader James Connolly warned crowds gathered in New York of the revision of the memory of the 1916 rebellion in Ireland.
Speaking at a 1916 centenary commemoration event organized by Friends of Sinn Fein, from the same stage where Connolly himself addressed American friends of Ireland on September 15, 1902, James Connolly Heron spoke of what he believes is the “airbrushed approach to history” in the way that this centenary has been celebrated in Ireland, condemning the PC-approach adopted by the Irish government which called on the public to remember not just the Irish Volunteers but the British soldiers that lost their lives during that Easter week.
He continued to say that he believed the mentality shown by the “right-wing press” in Ireland implied that England were simply “putting manners” on the Irish and making us more refined, “as if our people were not living in the worst slums in Europe at the time.”
Taking place in the Great Hall in Cooper Union in Manhattan, Connolly Heron claimed that by “honoring everyone, we are honoring nobody in particular,” suggesting that we should be proud of our freedom and not dismissive of it.
Images from last nights wonderful 1916 event in Coopers Union Hall in NY. pic.twitter.com/IuNUcDOQur— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) April 29, 2016
Whereas this “golden generation” in the early 20th century Ireland sacrificed everything for the freedom of their country, this generation, he believes, “now sacrifice their country for their lifestyle.”
Joining Connolly Heron on the first day of this commemorative event was John Samuelson and Lorcan Collins in an evening devoted to the links between the labor movement and the Irish independence movement.
Collins, founder of the the 1916 Walking Tour in Dublin and co-author of “The Easter Rising: A Guide to Dublin in 1916”, also spoke of Connolly’s time in the US and his speaking tour which began in Cooper’s Union.
Condemning Trump as a man who pits the working class against each other through his incendiary remarks, Collins claimed that Connolly would “truly have been a Bernie man.”
In an insightful lecture on the labor leader who Collins claimed was “behind the greatest workers’ defense force, possibly in the world,” emphasis was also placed on the strong women in the Irish labor and freedom movements, in particular the great friend of Connolly’s Countess Markievicz; Rosie Hackett, who is now the only woman to have a bridge named after her across the Liffey, the other 24 all being named after men; and Margaret Skinnider, the Glaswegian teacher who spent her last paycheck on a rifle for the Irish cause.
Gerry Adams leads the singing of A Nation Once Again at last nights Coopers Union Hall event in New York pic.twitter.com/T7VxQFXpkj— Richard G McAuley (@richardgmcauley) April 29, 2016
With gender quotas now in place in Ireland to try and increase the number of female participants in politics, it seems that Irish women lost the equal footing they had during the Easter Rising. The cause of this could perhaps be seen in an interesting anecdote from Collins of Eamon de Valera, former Taoiseach of Ireland and Irish President, who would come into power later in the 20th century.
His own feelings towards women having an equal part to play in the future of Ireland can perhaps be seen in firstly his failure to collect the troops from Cumann na mBan to bring them to the place where his battalion were fighting during the Rising and his subsequent reply to Countess Markievicz in later years when she questioned why he never came to bring them down. When pressed on the matter, Dev supposedly responded by saying he wished he had, as it would have allowed him to take his men from kitchen duty!
President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, was the final speaker of the second night of talks, which concentrated more on the question of Irish unity than on Connolly and the labor movement.
Admitting that a government will be formed in Ireland next week, but Sinn Fein will not be voting for it, Adams once again called on Irish Americans to use their influence for the end of partition in Ireland.
To those who fought for justice in Irish prisons & streets,how much easier wd it hv been if the Irish govt were on their side? @GerryAdamsSF— Michael Patrick MacD (@MickPaddyMack) April 29, 2016
Reflecting on comments made by the British that the Irish had some part to them play in them losing America, Adams said, “Here’s to the day they lose Ireland through the Irish Americans.”
Joining Adams on the stage on Thursday April 28 was Christine Kinealy from Quinnipiac University and Sinn Fein politician from north Kerry Toiréasa Ferris.