Dear Bob,

They keep on piling up, all these angry revisionist reappraisals of the Rising. 

Once a week without fail another celebrity exile clicks send on another heartfelt but glaringly one-sided treatise on the doubtful legacy of 1916. This week it was you, Bob.

You're not special in that regard, you're just the latest sad messenger in an inexhaustibly long line, but I'm writing to you now because yours was the most egregious, the most trolling, the most deplorably adolescent sputtering I encountered this week and I'm writing because your wealth, celebrity and knighthood shouldn't let you get away with it.

The Ireland that you grew up in was – we can certainly both agree - a priest ridden, reactionary backwater. It was a depressed and depressing theocratic gulag, a place where anyone who took a minority view was usually lampooned, or shunned, or attacked. 

And the only thing worse than all the fake piety was all the real conservatism. 

Back then our nation's tottering Catholic schools were run by pompous clerics or their complacent appointees. With unquestioned power, they often lorded it over the most vulnerable like cigar chomping gaolers unleashed in a Mississippi penitentiary. 

Our politicians were selected by their bloodlines or by their bank accounts, not by their aptitude or ambition. The same rule applied in the financial and business sectors. Which team you played for was a good indicator of how far you would rise.  

It was exhausted and exhausting, mired in the mayhem that many countries clawing their way out of centuries of colonialism were.

Back then even obviously privileged kids like you who went to middle class schools like Blackrock College could still find themselves being relentlessly bullied for having no interest or aptitude for something as life changingly important as rugby. 

Stand out and you were often left out. What made you unique could make you a moving target. Even thirty years, even ten years ago, Ireland was still a place where the ideals of the young were everyday betrayed by the faithless old. You wrote about it yourself in your songs once, the anger is evident in every line, you don't need to be reminded of those times. 

Or do you? 

You must be aware that bad as it was, things weren't quite so unpleasant for you in leafy Crosthwaite Park, where you grew up in one of those charming Victorian houses that now regularly fetch over a million each on the open market? You weren't exactly stinted in the old luck of the draw stakes, now were you?

A lot of time has passed. You have done great aid work for decades and you have rightly been acknowledged for it. But could the unresolved struggles of your adolescence in the 1970's be coloring your understanding of the Ireland of 2016, Bob? 

In your reactionary and knee jerk interview you claimed the real hero of the struggle for Irish independence was the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, because “his words fostered the dream of a free Ireland.” 

Excuse me? Even Yeats himself would have called that an inflated assertion. The dream of an independent and free Ireland has been nurtured in story, song and action since the time of the pale, and long before the Plantation. 

Meanwhile in his own poem ‘Easter, 1916’ Yeats is in no doubt about the intent of the 1916 revolutionaries, even if he remains ambivalent about their legacy:

“I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”

But I repeat, Yeats didn't think them terrorists, Bob. He thought them his countrymen (“wherever green is worn”). Prior to the Rising he saw only motley worn, so he was startled by the banners of freedom that were unexpectedly raised around him. 

A week before your incendiary interview with the Mail the author Barry Kennerk laughably claimed in The New York Times that Irish identity was just a stop gap invention of Sinn Fein and what he calls “the Gaelic revival movement,” an extraordinary assertion.

But you took an even simpler view, claiming the Irish were magically conjured in the mind of Yeats, our latter day Athena of letters. “Every place has a creation myth,” you opined. “Yeats said to the Irish, 'This is who you are. You are noble.' The man sang the nation into being.”

Again, men don't give birth and poems don't create nations, Bob. There's a little more to it. 

Yeats wasn't known for his retiring nature but even he would have felt abashed by your unrestrained raptures. Your claim is – how to say this – specious, condescending and insufferable nonsense.

I'm sure it will come as a terrific surprise to you Bob, but British imperialism was experienced as terrorism across most of the globe and like every other colony, Ireland still has the scars to prove it.

Over the centuries we sent the British countless polite notes asking for our independence but they didn't reply, Bob. They did however bring a gun ship and blow Sackville Street to kingdom come in 1916. I suppose you think their violence was justified and measured and ours had been insurrectionist terrorism? Have I got it about right now Bob?

But think of the kind of courage the men and women of 1916 would have needed to take on the might of the biggest empire the world had ever seen? Being smart – four of the signatories of the Proclamation were playwrights – they would have weighed the odds and anticipated they might not escape the crossfire or the consequences. But they also must have understood the powerful symbolic value of their gesture.

So it was not “false martyrdom” or anything so trite Bob, in fact it required the kind of courage that few of us will ever find in our lives. The British were exploiting our country and deciding our fates Bob. They had been doing so for centuries.

It was our duty as Irish patriots to put an end to that.

And you cannot blame the counter-revolution that came after the Civil War on the men and women of 1916, Bob. Many of the best and brightest of that generation were quickly shot by the over reacting British forces, and their contribution to the newly independent Ireland was lost. 

You can not blame the Troubles on them either. The IRA took up arms after 26 people were injured and 13 unarmed innocent men and boys were killed in Derry on Bloody Sunday. It strains credulity and history to say this rubicon was a legacy of 1916.

What the revolutionaries of 1916 did do was pull on the thread that would eventually unravel the entire British empire, Bob. And they have never been properly thanked for that service, because it was a service they did not just to Ireland but to the world.

Meanwhile Ireland has moved on even if you haven't. The Easter commemorations last month were dignified and stately.

The once priest ridden country has changed utterly, becoming the first country in the world to vote for marriage equality, quietly becoming a forward looking progressive nation where poets, presidents, rugby players and even drag queens can now change the national conversation (and hearts, and minds). 

You wouldn't recognize the place Bob, it's clear you don't.

Yours, etc,
Cahir O'Doherty

P.S. I didn't use the honorific Sir because frankly I'm not British and I would never. I'm more surprised that you accepted the knighthood in the first place back in 1986, or I was until I read your comments this week. Then it all became clear.