January 2016 (supplement)
|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
Also in this editorial:
And so Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and leader
of Fianna Fail (in consultation with the Progressive Democrats
but not the other parties) announced the recommencement of
an Easter military parade in Dublin to commemorate the 1916
Rising - and reclaim said event from others, i.e. Finn Féin,
who would claim it (Bertie and FF undoubtedly had more than
one eye on the threat to the Fianna fail vote from the Sinners).
It will be a 'large scale' military parade past the GPO. This
represents severely flawed thinking for a number of reasons.
The first thing to do is to acknowledge some
things about 1916. The 1916 Rising was one of the most significant
events in 20th century Ireland; along with Ulster loyalist
arming of itself from 1912 (prior, it must be said, to nationalist
arming), it transformed the nature of the dispute in Ireland.
The 1916 Rising and its repercussions led directly to Catholic
demand for outright independence from Britain and, indirectly,
to partition. It is History with a capital 'H' and denying
its significance is pointless.
But time has moved on. And if it was appropriate
to cancel the event during the Troubles why should it start
again now? It is severely flawed thinking to imagine that
an event which might inflame opinion and be seen in some way
to condone violence and be inappropriate should be resurrected
when most of the recent violence (the Troubles in the North)
is over. The year 1916 was the bloodiest period of the First
World War and some of the leaders of the Rising, including
Pearse, were soaked in the bloody violent redemption myths
of around the start and early period of that war. Are we still
stuck in this mire?
Some parts of the 1916 Proclamation are equally
dated, such as the concept of 'manhood' ("having organised
and trained her manhood"), invoking God's blessing on
their arms (what a repulsive concept), invoking the protection
of the 'Most High God' on a particular cause, and some aspects
of the concept of sacrifice. Some of the concepts are liberating,
as in "the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership
of Ireland" (tell that to the multinationals), liberty,
equality and so on.
If the State is to remember 1916 and the Rising
which led within five years to the foundation of that same
state, are there not more creative, 21st century ways to do
it? As mentioned above, there were some very positive aspects
to the 1916 Proclamation, none more so than 'cherishing all
the children of the nation equally". Well, that is a
very relevant concept in the era of the Celtic Tiger/Hyena;
child benefit may have soared in the Republic but the contrast
between the haves and the have nots has continued to grow.
Why not have something creative in the nature of a festival
for children which would contribute to equality? Although
Easter is still moveable, this could be linked with St Patrick's
Day festivities but be geared to children, especially providing
resources in areas of need which could show off the fruits
of their labour in the festival?
Aside from its symbolic role associated with
statehood, the main roles of the Irish army have been counter-insurgency
internally and service with the United Nations in military
peace-keeping externally. Again, if we want to look at 21st
century ways of marking the past, why not look at questions
like unarmed peacekeeping, how that can be done, and also
acting in solidarity with nations which are still struggling
to be free and how they can resist nonviolently?
Staying with a military parade to celebrate
the 1916 Rising is to stay stuck in a militarist mindset.
Far from reclaiming the Rising positively from Sinn Féin
(if that needed to be done which is another question) it will
confirm the appropriateness of armed action, even of the heroic
blood sacrifice type which 1916 represented. Justification
of military action after an event serves also to justify future
military action. And it bodes ill for developing Irish army
involvement in EU military action in the future.
We are not saying that 1916 should not be marked
as an historic occasion and the event which, more than any
other, led to the formation of the partitioned Irish Free
State. We are saying that it should be done in a positive
manner which looks forward to developing a world without war.
That requires a different mindset, one which is prepared to
think differently and question the dross left by the past.
A military parade to celebrate the 1916 Rising simply perpetuates
the myth of redemptive violent action and, after thirty year
of the Troubles, we have had far too much of that for the
Irish state to join in now. This is a badly thought out plan
by the Irish government.
Neither militarism nor paramilitarism
The ending of the most recent loyalist feud
between the UVF and the LVF is good news in Northern Ireland.
Four people have been killed (though that now pales into insignificance
compared to the number of drug-related gang deaths in Dublin).
If the LVF really is disbanding then that is good news, and
there are others who need to take that course, even if the
LVF may be taking this course under threat.
However, as with the IRA, 'disbandment' can
mean many things including the continuation of extortion and
rackets to keep people and causes in the style to which they
have become accustomed. Whether and how long these various
rackets can continue without the sanction of violence is another
matter. And whether loyalist paramilitarism as a whole will
decide that the time has come to stand down is a question
to which there is definitely no answer as yet. Logically the
end of the IRA's violence should also mean the end of loyalist
paramilitarism but straightforward logic is not the issue.
The IRA's disarming took more than seven years from the Good
Friday Agreement when 'logically' it should have happened
quite soon afterwards. Simple resistance to change and the
question of what role is left for people are major issues,
aside from those who oppose disarming for financial or strategic
Some former paramilitaries may disappear into
the woodwork, emerge in new political roles, or get involved
in community work of one form or another. This is generally
good news for the North though people will naturally be wary
of what known former paramilitaries are up to. It could take
quite some very considerable time for the playing field to
But there is another aspect of encroaching peace
in Northern Ireland which is worth remarking on. As the danger
recedes of attacks on troops and 'normalisation' grows, British
Army recruiters (for full and part time army posts) are becoming
more blatant. This needs opposed by all those who support
peaceful resolution of conflict. To give just one basic current
reason, the British Army is fighting an illegal and immoral
war in Iraq which has put back international relations decades
and added incredibly to the risks of death and serious injury
through bombing and attacks on civilian targets in Iraq but
also to a lesser degree in 'the west'.
We say paramilitarism has had its day. But we
also say militarism has had its day. It is time to give nonviolence
a chance and explore its possibilities and not be sucked into
the normalisation of militarism. This will mean actively resisting
the army recruiters and the inducements they offer to join
up and fight for Bush and Blair.
The collapse of yet a second trial of the Catholic
Worker Ploughshares Five at the Four Courts in Dublin is not
an effective illustration of the jury system in operation.
In both cases it would seem it was the judge what done it
(responsible for collapsing the trial). If the state (DPP)
is not to appear vindictive, the charges should now be dropped.
We have also had enough of narrow rulings from the judge about
what evidence the defence can present and their case. To have
to defend yourself in two trials is a sentence in itself -
three trials would be ludicrous.
To prevent farce turning to tragedy, the case
against the Ploughshares Five should be dropped immediately
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:
This year Halloween shop-displays appeared before
the end of August, denoting the intensive sell of the artefacts
of the season. An article in The Independent (UK), 24 October,
about the commercialization of the festival informed us that
the shop chain Woolworth's had 224 Halloween products on sale,
a third aimed at adults, and that the occasion is a multimillion-pound
bonanza. Sadly, Halloween has become another commodity, a
time for shallow thrills, rather than, as it was a number
of decades ago, an event that marked the end of the season
of light, warmth, and vibrant colour to that of darkness and
cold, and with this a change in the ambiance and activities
of everyday life, most notably the type of food eaten, clothes
worn, games played, outdoor chores undertaken and enjoyment
of the warmth and comfort of the living room fire. In times
gone-by Halloween acknowledged our place in Nature, black
signifying the long hours of darkness and the fact that we
would die, orange represented the autumn hue of grass and
leaves. It was also believed that on Halloween ('Hallow' means
something holy) the souls of the departed were about in the
darkness of the night, thus the masks and pumpkin lanterns
to frighten them away. The festival goes back to at least
the time of the Celts. Alexei Kondratie in his book Celtic
Rituals (2004), informs us that for the Celts it embodied
five main themes:
1. Renewal. This focuses primarily on the bonfire ritual.
2. Hospitality for the dead. 3. Dissolution: disguises, trickery,
etc. 4.Timelessness: the momentary escape from the linear
progression of Time encourages the practice of divination.
5. Sacrifice: The Harvest must be paid for, so the spirits
of the Land receive Tribute." (p. 108)
Kondratie articulates what was once widely held
to be the essence of the festival when he says:
"The Year's plunge into winter is also
a plunge into the deep sea-waters of Death. ...In practical
terms, this means letting go: allowing the heightened energy
of the samos-phrase, (life - summer experience) which we have
been drawing on constantly to fuel many activities at the
conscious level, to slip out of our control and sink back
into the formless depths of the ocean-womb, there to await
rebirth at the proper time. ...The absence of light will,
in the meantime, bring about new modes of consciousness appropriate
to it, stressing memory and reflection over observation and
action. Without such a period for re-processing and re-assimilating
past experience, there could be no growth to a new stage."
The commodification of Halloween signifies a
degree of alienation from our nature, as well as the natural
world. In the former we repress our primeval need for a period
of productive slumber, and in the later, we hold that technology
has made us independent of the cycles and restraints of the
biosphere. This accords with what the novelist and political
activist Arundhati Roy said on the subject of commodification,
or what might be called the denaturing of the world:
"Down at the Mall there's a mid-season
sale. Everything's discounted - oceans, rivers, oil, gene
pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, ... wisdom, wilderness,
civil rights, ecosystems, air - all 4,600 million years of
evolution. It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available
off the rack." (Frontline, 11th October 2002)