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1916-2016 Easter Rising Commemorations – Was it ok?

In 2016 we commemorated the Easter Rising from 1916. Everybody had huge expectations and I think now that we have left 2016 behind, it is time to look back and to assess if the expectations were met or if the whole thing was a big disappointment.

In 2015 I had expected that the following year will be full of funeral re-enactments and other drama and re-lived pain. Sinn Fein were positioning themselves to be in charge of Dublin City (through the position of “Lord” Major) and it seemed that they wanted to run the whole show.

When 2016 arrived it immediately started with a flurry of events. Talks, discussions, tours, music, poetry, theatre etc and it looked as if this would continue throughout the year. The events were mostly of high quality with very dedicated and passionate people running it and it all culminated in a great (RTE-organised) event on Easter Monday that had whole Dublin buzzing with activity. The streets around Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square were packed with people, O’Connell Street was more than full and Smithfield Plaza was as busy as I had seen it never before. There were concerts, historic car exhibitions, historic trade demonstrations, talks, theatre and everything else you can imagine under the umbrella of “cultural commemoration”. It was an outstanding day.It was very surprising that RTE got overall responsibility as the event had nothing directly to do with TV or Radio, but they did a really great job in keeping all together in that one day.

After Easter Monday, however, it all ended very abruptly. The odd exhibition continued and for the rest of the year only a small number of talks popped up but otherwise it was all done and dusted.

This latter part disappointed me! I didn’t think that all was discussed and sorted by Easter Monday, so the rest of the year could easily have had more activities. Before Easter Monday it was nearly a bit much because all was crammed in the first four months of the year and Easter Monday was – as mentioned – a true highlight and couldn’t have been much better.

Luckily NO political party claimed “ownership” of the commemorations and no one party had bigger influence over it than another party. And luckily also, the commemorations were a celebration and not a sad, drab affair.

So all in all, I would give 2016 a 8 out of 10 as far as 1916 commemorations are concerned. I learned a lot, understood a lot better afterwards and was (for the first time since I live in Ireland) impressed by RTE.

Now we have to ask, what is next. The Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) is next, followed by the Irish Civil War (1922-1923) and history get a lot more controversial at that time. But maybe we can find some positive common denominator there as well?

Easter Rising Commemorations – the oddest one!?

The real anniversary of the Easter Rising is on Sun 24 April and the celebrations/commemorations on Easter Monday (28 March) were very much premature.

One thing that surprised me (positively) was that Sinn Fein didn’t feature at all. The commemorations should not be and were not claimed by any political party, but it was an event for the people. At the beginning of the year it looked as if Sinn Fein would try to give themselves a big pat on the shoulder for what “they” had achieved in 1916, but despite the current Major being from Sinn Fein, the party kept a very low profile. Good!

With the REAL anniversary happening nearly a month after the big event, the question was how this “second” anniversary would be celebrated and the answer seems to be: NOT!! A little odd, that there is not at least some small scale official event, but we will get over it.

With surprise though, I found out that on Sunday 24 April a quite odd commemoration will take place: Dublin City Council and Athletics Ireland are hosting a “Dublin Remembers 1915 Run”. I am not even sure why I find this so odd, but reading through the promotional text on Dublin City’s website it just sounds strange when you read:

“With the centenary celebrations of 1916 in full swing, this is an excellent opportunity to put your running shoes on in remembrance.”

And the text continues explaining that the run will pass by “iconic sites … exactly 100 years ago to the day of the Easter Rising.” (Let’s not dwell on the incorrect sentence with the word “ago” not fitting in there at all.) Running a 5km run and passing by the locations where people shot each other 100 years ago does seem to me to be one of the oddest ways to commemorate.

Is any harm done by this “Dublin Remembers 1916 Run”? Not at all! …and I still find it a rather strange way to commemorate a rebellion 100 years ago.

[If you want to participate in this run, you have to register before 20 April and it will cost you EUR 11: www.athleticsireland.ie/news/dublin-remembers-1916-5k/

Easter Rising: Selective Storytelling?

“Hagiography” is a biography that idolises its subjects and having written about a LOT of Easter Rising talks and events in the last few weeks, I am wondering lately if there is a bit of “hagiographing” going on in all these talks. The largest amount of talks was about the role of women in the Easter Rising and the other section of talks is about the leaders of the Rising. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go to any of the talks yet, but reading the descriptions, it seems that (nearly) every speaker feels obliged to paint a heroic-ish picture of the participants in the Rising.

For a historic treatment of an event it would be good to look at ALL aspects. And unfortunately, the immediate outcome of the Easter Rising was an unmitigated disaster. The surrender can’t have been the planned or preferred end of the Rising and it can’t have been the intention either to get so many of the leaders killed after the events. So where did they fail and why did they fail and who would have to take the responsibility for the failure of the Easter Rising? Bad planning? Bad execution? Too much idealism? Wrong assessment/expectation of the British reaction? What could have been done differently to successfully achieve the goals that they had? Was it even possible to achieve them?

I know all these questions could criticise the leaders of the Rising and that seems to be inappropriate this year. In hindsight, but only in hindsight!!!, we know that the sacrifice of the volunteers involved in 1916 achieved Ireland’s independence some years later, but that does not turn the Easter Rising itself into a success. The events in 1916 were an important trigger that lead to the the successful separation from Britain and it posthumously justified the Easter Rising, but it was still a failed operation if you look at the events in 1916 only.

Discussing this wouldn’t have to dirty the reputation of the volunteers, but ignoring it unfortunately turns many of the talks into blinkered hagiographies.

 
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