The amount of hoohaw and guff spouted about the Easter Rising and the Proclamation in the past week has stuck in my craw. There’s been an element of measured keening for the revolutionary dead, tempered by some fawning nods of reconciliation to those who continue to deny the legacy of that event.
Most of the videos we’ve seen about the centenary have dwelt on the diaspora, with many of the Irish people chosen to recite excerpts of the Proclamation against the background of their foreign homes, without a hint of irony regarding the circumstances that drove many of them to seek a life abroad, their own nation could not give them.
Then Centenary, the RTE show in the Bord Gais theatre, has been proclaimed as ‘a new Riverdance moment’, that, for some odd reason, reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s unfulfilled novelist, Kilgore Trout, who could only get published in porn magazines and one story of his, in particular, about an alien who landed on earth beside a suburban house that was on fire. So, when the alien woke the family to warn them of their imminent danger, he could only communicate, in his alien way, by tap dancing and farting and got knocked down, dead, by the father of the house, wielding a nine iron.
The show was, without a doubt, a triumph, but I did wonder why the second chapter, the building, included a Ewan McColl song, ‘School Days Over’, about the plight and working lives of miners? Was someone having a laugh? Of course, it might’ve been an ironic nod to the thousands of Irish who left the new nation to find work because there was none here and who spent their lives as navvies on British roads, buildings and canal ways.
And where was Christy Moore, once hailed the ‘storm in a tee shirt’ and ‘the national conscience’, was he asked to take part?
Last year, when a friend of mine (Gary Kelly) approached me with a screenplay for a 1916 themed short film, I took it on with him, as a worthwhile project to make a statement about 1916; first, that were two armies in the Rising and two ideals pursued in the Proclamation but secondly, that 100 years after the Rising, those ideals have not been achieved and the ghosts, of those who fought, are still with us.
So, when a relative of James Connolly suffers abuse at the hands of a narrow mined, nationalist, bigot at a commemoration ceremony for relatives of people who fought in the Rising and a young woman, Irish, but not white, should ask, ‘why is that still a problem, 100 years after the Rising?, then we must ask ourselves, are we a nation, were we ever and what does that mean?
These same points have been reiterated also daily, in the past fortnight. Here is a variety of them, from all sides.