D.R. O’Connor Lysaght

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2016), Letters, Volume 24

Sir,—D.R. O’Connor Lysaght (HI 23.6, Nov./Dec. 2015, letters) somewhat misses the point of my Platform piece (HI 23.5, Sept./Oct. 2105). It was not ‘a critique of the Easter Rising’ but rather, as requested by the editor, a comment on the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ from a Belfast viewpoint. It was about how the events of 1912–22 are being remembered, or mis-remembered. The Easter Rising featured largely in it because that is the event that, above all others, is being commemorated.

Mr Lysaght correctly points out that the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force led directly to the creation of the Irish Volunteers. The Ulster Covenant had recklessly included the implied resort to force in its pledge to ‘use all means found to be necessary’ to prevent Home Rome, and the gunrunning of 1914 was an open act of rebellion. But the Rising was neither inspired nor provoked by those events—the Irish Republican Brotherhood, committed to the use of force to achieve its ends, was active and infiltrating nationalist movements such as the Gaelic League before the Covenant was even thought of. The Rising was essentially an IRB rebellion, carried out against the wishes of the Volunteer leadership.

It is perhaps worth noting that there has been no official commemoration in Northern Ireland of the Larne gunrunning, and no sign of much unofficial notice being taken of its centenary. Ian Paisley’s attempt, in the early 1970s, to have the SS Clyde Valley restored and preserved as a monument to the gunrunning foundered through lack of public support.

To reply briefly to Robert F. Lyons, there is no valid comparison between the American Civil War, fought between the forces of established states within the Union, and a rebellion by a small minority with no mandate. The American War of Independence was declared and fought by the armies of the established governments of the colonies. Yeats’s speech reviews the period from the fall of Parnell in 1891 to the start of the Anglo-Irish war in 1919 and concludes that ‘a disillusioned and embittered Ireland turned away from parliamentary politics’. Ireland did not turn away from ‘parliamentary politics’ until after 1916, not before. Easter Week was not a rebellion of ‘the Irish people’ but a conspiracy led by a secret society intent on violence—the IRB. I feel sure that Mr Lyons’s astonishment will abate if he reads my article again in a calmer state of mind.—Yours etc.,



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