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31 August 2015

Dead being used to inspire others to kill for Ireland

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Since the mid-19th century, when nationalism got its grip on us, we have been politically a necrophiliac culture, worshipping our dead and seeking in their words and deeds instructions on how we should conduct our lives. We revere martyrs and use them to create a hunger for martyrdom.

It's a kind of Irish Catholic version of Islamist fanaticism, with the Proclamation of the Irish Republic taking the place of the Koran and various sayings of dead jihadis quoted like the Hadith.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood, aka the Fenians, began this in a big way after nationalism became sexy in the second half of the 19th century. They metaphorically dug up failed revolutionaries like Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet and by celebrating them as role models, inspired new generations to kill for Ireland.

The men of 1916, themselves inspired by Tone, Emmet and all the other patriot poster boys, have inspired IRA hardliners for a century to kill and injure and torture. And the Good Friday Agreement did not put a stop to that terrible tradition. Endorsed by politicians, the martyrdom cult goes on.

Other privileged, well-educated countries don't do this. In London last year, millions visited the Tower of London to look at the planting of 888,246 red ceramic poppies before Remembrance Day. The mood was sombre. There was no glorification of those deaths: just sadness for all the young lives sacrificed.

Down the road from where I live in London is a large statue of Edith Cavell, a nurse who was shot by a German firing squad in 1915 because she had helped allied prisoners escape from occupied Belgium. Her execution happened at a time when the IRB was secretly begging Germany to send an invasion force as well as arms. Cavell's death didn't seem to bother the Irish or Irish-American conspirators.

The German Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying it was necessary. "She was judged justly ... It is undoubtedly a terrible thing the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a state, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women."

When in Dublin in May 1916, the British for similar reasons shot 15 people who had led a revolution that left hundreds dead, they commuted the death sentence on Constance Markievicz because she was a woman. Just sayin'.

Anyway, back to peace-loving Gerry Adams, who last Sunday led the festivities for something called 'Remembering the Hunger Strikers - National Commemoration Day'. A TD who leads a political party that aspires to be in government on both sides of the border led a procession through Dundalk that included children carrying photographs of terrorists who killed or tried to kill and ultimately committed suicide for a united Ireland. The role models they were being given included Francis Hughes, for instance, a ruthless assassin.

As Adams reported on his blog, the organisers "had arranged some street theatre to remind us of other days. At one place there were women holding posters shouting slogans in support of the blanket men and the Armagh women prisoners; at another spot a group was shouting slogans against strip searching; at yet another a group of women were vigorously bashing the footpath with the cleanest bin-lids I have ever seen".

Apart from inspiring the young to hate, this procession and all the Sinn Fein alternative commemorations we will have to endure over the next several months are about giving parity of esteem to their Troubles dead.

Let's remember that Sinn Fein is a political party that hates what they still think of as the Free State, and they are using the men of 1916 in their campaign to denigrate its political class.

Adams told his followers last Sunday: "Our responsibility as we are about to celebrate (note that: not commemorate) the centenary of 1916 is to finish the work of the men and women of 1916 and of 1981. That means working to build the republic envisioned by the Proclamation and the leaders of that time but suited to the needs of the 21st century."

We will have plenty of unsavoury electioneering along these lines. Is it too much to hope that when Easter is over, our democratic politicians will grasp that they should extricate themselves from the dangerous minefield of dead patriots and have one dignified day every year in which we celebrate ourselves?

We could call it St Patrick's Day.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards