By Red Hugh
Recently I came across a comment on Facebook where a former member of the Garda Siochana, a man I know well, angrily denounced the fact a prison officer in Portlaoise Prison had been asked to remove a poppy after republican prisoners there objected.
Why, he asked, should ‘murderers and killers’ be allowed to dictate to a prison officer how ‘those brave Irish men and women’ who died in two world wars be remembered.
Who were, to him, the heroes and who were the zeroes was left in no doubt.
Some days earlier I was in a house in south Donegal, a well known Fianna Fail home, when the gentleman said to me that he didn’t agree with the 1916 celebrations.
The Government, he suggested, should not be spending money on this kind of thing.
I sat opened mouth. In 1966 this man’s dad was to the forefront of the fiftieth celebrations, and his son is named after one of the more prominent executed leaders.
The more I look around me I see people who seem almost conflicted about what it means to be Irish.
They would fight for the right to wear a poppy but almost sneer at those who went to fight to win our freedom.
How do you arrive at that kind of logic? And why shouldn’t we celebrate our heritage? What’s the problem?
The Brits celebrate their wars with lavish annual ceremonies. The French have Bastille Day, the Americans go bananas on the ‘Fourth of July’.
Can you imagine any American president saying ‘Independence Day’ was not necessary?
Or a British Prime Minister saying celebrating victory on VE Day was something they really shouldn’t bother doing?
— OldIreland (@OldeEire) November 10, 2015
When Prince Charles came to Dublin in 1995, the then Taoiseach, John Bruton was quoted as saying, ‘This is the happiest day of my life’.
And Bruton is also a pretty good exponent of the second strand of Irish cultural confusion, anti republicanism.
He’s on record as saying that 1916 was ‘completely unecessary.’ The British, he claims, had already accepted a Home Rule Bill that would have been activated at the end of World War 1.
I’m not a historian but Bruton seems to ignore some rather pertinent facts – that Home Rule was not true independence, that there were a million unionists armed and ready to oppose that Bill, and ‘perfidious Albion’ had a rather long track record of not keeping it’s promises.
When he was prime minister of Australia Paul Keating got into trouble with in his national media when he lightly caught the Queen’s arm.
One simply did not touch the British royals. The old farts who had bowed and scraped to ‘Her Majesty’ were appalled.
Never backwards at coming forward Keating described those who were leading the outrage as suffering from ‘cultural cringe’.
They were, he said, sychophants and forelock tuggers. I think we have a lot of folk who suffer from a similar condition.
I have come to the conclusion that the anti-1916 lobby are really more concerned with republicanism in 2016.
That the last thing they want to do is give today’s republicans any legitimacy or currency as we approach a very divisive General Election.
If that means denying legitimacy to the heroes of 1916, so be it. That, to me, is cheap politics.