A former Fianna Fáil attorney general claims we should not commemorate the Easter Rising as its leaders “had no legitimacy.”
Paul Gallagher, who served in governments led by Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, believes there is no way in hindsight for the Rising to be justified, as its participants did not take the wishes of the Irish people into account when they attempted to take over Dublin on May 24, 2016.
Referring to the main rebel leaders as “a self-absorbed group of brave idealists who had never represented anybody,” Gallagher, a barrister who served as Attorney General of Ireland from 2007 until March 2011, claimed that James Connolly was the only leader who served the public in any way, through his brief stint on Dublin’s City Council.
“We should accommodate [the Rising] - but we certainly should not celebrate it. Celebration loses focus and it fails to distinguish between good aspects and bad aspects,” he told The Irish Times.
Speaking to the Irish newspaper in elaboration of comments he made at a recent debate on the Rising at Castleknock College, Gallagher, 61, stated that by commemorating the Rising in the way we have, we are distinguishing ourselves as a nation “by a capacity for violence.” He stressed that the leaders had no democratic right to declare an Irish Republic through violence at this time when they did not know the tide was to change in their favor following their deaths.
“They decided what people like you and me wanted and should do, and the cost didn’t matter. It was Providence that so many more weren’t killed,” he said.
“How could they have assumed that people who in 1916 didn’t want this done in their name would in 1918 and 1919 decide they wanted a different Ireland? They couldn’t assume that and they had no entitlement to assume it.”
Comparing the actions of violence in Northern Ireland during The Troubles with the Rising, which many consider a seminal historical event in the quest for Irish independence, Gallagher stated that the “thugs and murderers” of the Troubles “claimed they were doing this in a cause that deserved to be revered, in a cause that they said justified anything, in a cause they said was going to improve the lives of all the people who undoubtedly were being discriminated against”.
He continued to say that as a nation we have placed too much emphasis on the events of 1916, placing too much importance on the violence of the past to our detriment.
“For over 70 years following 1916 we were a country that did not realise our potential. We were obsessed with the past, we were obsessed with who did what in 1916. It itself was used to discriminate between people,” he said.
“I regret greatly the lost years and I believe that Ireland between 1920 and 1980, perhaps even 1990, was a wasteland for so many people.
“People were confused, they didn’t feel there was any prospect of Ireland bettering itself in any real way; that we were stuck in some sort of time warp. That, I’m afraid, is the legacy of 1916, at least in part.”
Gallagher is not the only person to speak out against the 2016 Easter Rising commemorations and the emphasis they place on violence they feel is not justified.
In January 2016, an Irish Jesuit scholar living in the US criticized the Government’s 2016 Rising centenary events, claiming that although some of the events are acceptable, “its totality is deeply disturbing.”
“To celebrate the Rising is to celebrate anti-democratic elitism and bloodlust,” stated Fr Séamus Murphy SJ, an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
“Let’s acknowledge the bravery and discipline of the insurgents,” Murphy wrote for The Irish Times.
“Acknowledge too their irresponsibility in starting a rising in a city centre that foreseeably would (and did) lead to far more civilian than combatant deaths.”
“Far more serious is the attempt of the Rising’s leaders, without authority from the living Irish people (as opposed to the imaginary authority of the dead generations), to establish a new state and themselves as its government with power to start a war and execute citizens. That cannot be laughed off.”
He joined the voices of former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards in believing that independence could have been achieved without the Rising and to honor it is to keep alive the tradition of violence in Irish politics.
H/T: The Irish Times