From the Editor…

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2006), Letters, Letters, Volume 14

Just when you thought it was safe…?

‘The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from a majority in the past.’
Clearly those responsible for the disgraceful scenes of disorder in Dublin on 25 February 2006 have violated the principles of the cause they claim to uphold (many with tricolours wrapped around them). Notwithstanding the opportunism of much of the violence and looting and the provocative nature of the ‘Love Ulster’ demonstration (and isn’t it high time that the Orange commitment to ‘civil and religious liberty’ was reinterpreted for the twenty-first century rather than the seventeenth?), there was no excuse for what transpired.
Commenting on RTÉ radio, one historian linked the disturbances to the decision to reinstate the traditional parade to commemorate the Easter 1916 Rising. Paraphrasing the Jaws II advert—‘Just when you thought it was safe . . .’—he seemed to imply that such commemorations risked awakening a slumbering nationalist/ republican beast. Other critics of the government decision (and of President McAleese’s recent speech) have pointed to the ‘complexities’ of 1916, implying that these should be left to professional historians. Not only is this élitist but, in the light of the ignorance displayed by the rioters, surely we need more debate, more discussion, and not less, about the legacy of 1916. Public commemoration is an integral part of that process.
It is in that spirit that we offer readers this special (extended) issue to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. In particular we would like to thank Labhras Joye (National Museum), Brian Crowley (Pearse Museum), Seamus Helferty (UCD Archives) and Brian Lynch (RTÉ) for making available the bulk of the illustrative material. Let the debate continue.

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