Ireland needed The Easter Rising

Republicans who still support the Easter Rising have to live with one uncomfortable fact: the conflict that started in the GPO ended in the partition of Ireland.

We have no way of knowing how history would have progressed without the Rising. We can’t say, for example, that partition wouldn’t have happened anyway. We can’t say that there would not have been a civil war between unionists and nationalists.

What we can say, I believe, is that Ireland desperately needed to get out of the United Kingdom and that in itself justifies the Rising.

Constitutional nationalism accepted that Ireland was dependent on Britain. And our dependency on Britain was a cancer eating away at our entire society, fuelling our national inferiority complex and undermining our collective self-belief.

The reality is that there would never have been a Celtic Tiger under British rule. Every people must learn how to run their own affairs, to make mistakes and learn from them. That’s what we did. 

It wasn’t enough that over a period of fifty years we could have weaned a power here and there from London. The way of the world is that those with power always wield it in their own interest. Ireland’s interests would have always been a secondary consideration for the British.

The revolution of 1916-1921 was a clean break. It left us having to paddle our own canoe. We made many errors but the outcome was worth it.

At the time we were part of the biggest empire in the world. Thousands of Dubliners were in Belgium, France and Turkey fighting on the side of the British Empire. They were killing and being killed in the interests of another country.

Irish soldiers were in every part of the empire denying local people self-government and ensuring that local resources were used for the benefit of the British. 

So it takes some cheek to attack the Easter Rising on the grounds of opposition to violence. The constitutional nationalists of the time were up to their necks in violence. Two of the most prominent nationalists of the time, Irish Party leader John Redmond and his brother Wille encouraged thousands of Irishmen to join up.

So violence was going to be a part of our lives whether we had the Easter Rising or not. I would contend that a lot fewer working class Dubliners died in war over the past century thanks to the eviction of the British Army from this city.

But there was a bad side. We needed to have our row with the British. Unfortunately, there was no way we could have had a row with the British while avoiding a row with the unionists. And that is why we have partition.

How many people in Dublin would now want us to be part of the United Kingdom? A handful. That in itself is an enormous tribute to the men and women of the Easter Rising. That is the victory in their vision. 

We believe in ourselves. We think we are best people to run our country. All that is left is to show our unionist neighbours that they can be part of this success.