1916-2016

As someone who has been a long term student of Irish history, I have been looking forward to the centennial celebration for years and years. At first, I thought I’d have to watch it from afar – and I still may yet have to do that, but the goal is to spend about a month wandering through the whole of the Emerald Isle before culminating in Dublin for the 100 year commemoration of the Easter Rising. I have been devouring any information I can find on the planned celebrations for years and have found it all woefully lacking. I still can’t even get an answer about whether it is going to be planned for Easter, which is incredibly early in 2016, or if it will wait until April 24th.

I started paying attention to what the people in charge were and were not saying. Modern politicians seem to be more concerned with whether or not the British royalty will show up than they are about planning something awesome for their own people. Given that they owe their positions to the rebellious men and women of 1916 (also before and since) you would think that they’d be getting ready to honor them.

That doesn’t seem to be the case though. Former Taoiseach John Bruton has said some pretty terrible things lately with regard  to the 1916 Easter Rising and what it did or didn’t accomplish. Certain people in the North of Ireland are trying to make sure that the Rising is not commemorated at all, stating that it is a foreign holiday and not worth noting. And still, as far as I can tell, no one is really planning anything yet. There are a lot of things “in the works”, being “thought about” or might be “announced soon”  but really, “nothing solid”.

I know I like to plan further out than most people, but it has been a challenge to figure out travel information or any other plan concerning the centennial. I am pretty surprised by this, given that it is one of the catalyst moments in Irish history and a stand out in world history too for that matter. It is puzzling that so little has been figured out about the festivities and commemorations, given it is less than 2 years away. If it were me, I’d have had it done a decade ago, with a little wiggle room for changes and fresh ideas.

I get that there are some people who don’t want to glorify violence –  which surely did occur 100 years ago. I get that some people are simply tired of the whole shebang and would rather look to the future instead of the past. I understand that big anniversaries are often used as an excuse to bring old rivalries back and rehash grievances. Sometimes it can be used to ignite the flames of hatred and violence in the present as well, and in such a place like the North where many issues simmer just beneath the surface, things could get somewhat charged.

However, I don’t think the answer is to just let it go. I don’t think wringing hands over the possibilities of what could happen should keep anyone from deciding what will. And except for how ironic it is, I certainly don’t see why anyone should care whether or not the Crown or its envoys will be appearing in Dublin, since 100 years ago they nearly leveled it.

If the political quagmire of planning the centennial is something politicians want to avoid, fine – but then it’s time to admit it and hand it over to the people. Leaders and former leaders like John Bruton should not look a gift horse in the mouth. They should acknowledge that their positions in this life were given by those who came before and who did a lot to create the country that they now enjoy. It’s people like Mr. Bruton who have allowed so many important places in Irish history to be forgotten and razed and it’s no wonder that Moore Street is headed into the same rubble.

I hope to be at the GPO in 2016. I want to pay homage to those “madmen” who inspired me at such a tender age with their poems and idealism and the brave women who broke the mold to join them. I hope by then there’s a plan in place for something much more elaborate than just me lighting a candle or dropping a flower or two in O’Connell Street. I also hope that present day leaders learn to respect both the people who led before them, and those that they themselves are supposed to lead – many of whom would like a little recognition of the past on such a large and important anniversary.

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