Lawrence Downes of The New York Times appears to desperately want to belong on the editorial board of America’s most widely read newspaper. To do so he is only too happy to become that type of apologetic Irishman we have all come across in such institutions.
How else can one explain his extraordinary Sunday column slamming the 1916 Easter Rising based on an Irish Times column by one Father Seamus Murphy, a Jesuit priest from Loyola in Chicago who has suddenly popped up as an instant expert on Irish history, and who turns out to be a major supporter of the murder and violence of the Iraq War, which he called a just war condemned even by successive popes.
Father Murphy denies the Rising was necessary and states it was a fiasco carried out by a group of “unrepresentative gunmen who only created a pretend Republic.”
That is grossly insulting to the leaders of 1916, who within two years of the Rising, enjoyed the support of 78 percent of the Irish people. It is also a simplistic look at the history of the time as refracted through the modern era.
President Michael D. Higgins dealt with the issue beautifully.
Higgins stated to the BBC that when questions are raised about the morality of the violent uprising, people should remember the historical context at the time.
“When we decide to address the issue of violence, let us speak of the violence of empire, the violence of state, the violence of insurrection.”
On Easter Monday, President Higgins stated it was time to examine imperial triumphalism the way Republicanism has been put under the microscope.
“In the context of 1916, this imperial triumphalism can be traced, for example, in the language of the recruitment campaigns of the time, which evoked mythology, masculinity and religion, and glorified the Irish blood as having ‘reddened the earth of every continent.’”
But the only context for revisionists like Downes is those bloodthirsty Republicans. However, one would have thought Downes might have looked deeper into Reverend Murphy given he placed such store in him as a man of peace.
He might have discovered much of interest.
For instance, here Fr Murphy's take on the Iraq War, which he considered a just war.
“Given Saddam's addiction to war ...he is likely, if left in power, to provoke more wars. That, coupled with the oppression and terror, far outweighs the burden of the US/UK invasion. At worst, the US/UK invasion is the lesser evil, at best a liberation.”
However, he says the Easter Rising passes none of the ‘just war’ criteria. Instead, he calls it a “pagan love of war and blood-sacrifice” and claims that it “attacked important political common goods.” (See more here.)
Well, at least the 1916 rebels didn’t claim secret weapons of mass destruction. One million people didn't die including thousands of Americans, billions of dollars were not looted and the American economy impacted.
The invasion of Iraq as an example of liberation theology is a real beauty (maybe he was influenced by Judith Miller’s reporting in the New York Times about fictional weapons of mass destruction she reported on exclusively.)
Downes must feel a bit of an idiot quoting a just war defender of the Iraq War. The Iraq Body Count project says up to 1 million people have been killed to date as a result.
So this guy is no pacifist, Larry, despite your embrace of him.
It is also not true to say there was no support for the rebels at the time. The Gaelic Revival was in full swing. There was major backing for insurrection. The funeral of Fenian martyr O'Donovan Rossa had drawn hundreds of thousands of sympathizers the year before. The Irish Volunteers who fought in the GPO did so preferring to die there than on a bloody battlefield like the Somme at the behest of a despotic monarch.
If the Iraq slaughter and invasion done by a foreign army was a just war, then the Easter Rising, when Irishmen like Americans before them and French too, took matters into their own hands and declared for freedom, was certainly more just.
Downes would probably prefer to believe the American colonists should have just accepted the British right to rule or the French monarchy’s droit de seigneur. Certain Irishmen love to cuddle up with royal fantasies.
Downes and Murphy belong to that rather addled revisionist stream of Irish history which has lately begun to run dry. It has been proved beyond doubt that, far from rushing into war, the 1916 leaders only did so after Ulster militants armed themselves, then the British Army at the Curragh refused to confront them, despite orders to do so.
Unionist leader Edward Carson was also given explicit assurance by Asquith that Home Rule would never be enacted and the British were likely to consider conscription.
James Joyce, years earlier in 1907, had predicted the very situation of no Home Rule, noting that anytime the Irish got uneasy the British sent a comet called “home rule” to calm and tantalize them, shining brightly for a while but then disappearing.
If there is a villain it is John Redmond of the Irish Parliamentary Party – opposed to Pearse, who bowing to that comet sent over 30,000 Irish to their graves in WWI.
Pearse and Connolly saw through all that and understood only rebellion would give them the opportunity to strike for nationhood as generations before them had.
There is no doubt the 1916 uprising by 1,200 brave souls, who for one week held off an imperial army that grew to 38,000, succeeded in their primary goal: to fire up the spirit of a nation.
Not surprisingly the New York Times at the time, calling them British subjects, demanded the rebels all be executed.
Here is what is true. The decades long battle to besmirch the Easter Rising has been lost. In Dublin on Sunday something magical happened as hundreds of thousands turned out and all political parties without exception paid fulsome praise to the leaders of the Irish revolution.
Father Murphy and Downes may well embrace the Good Friday Agreement, but they conveniently forget that it came about because Republicans took the courageous step to turn away from the gun.
It is a strange era. Over the weekend, a leading columnist for the establishment British newspaper The Daily Telegraph called for a British apology for shooting the Rising leaders.
The New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes would hardly agree. A discredited Jesuit who said 1916 was not a just war but that the Iraq War was carries far more weight, no doubt.