|Tour leader under the Irish tricolor shows the spot where the 1916 martyrs were shot.|
|Patrick Pearse, one of the 1916 martyrs|
Inside the post office are a statue and a plaque. The legend reads: “Here on Easter Monday 1916 Patrick Pearse read the proclamation of the Irish republic. From this building he commanded the forces that asserted in arms Ireland’s right to freedom.”
Pearse was a poet, as were other leaders of the Rising. The British army, though preoccupied with fighting a world war, easily put down the rebellion, which did not initially arouse the popular support its leaders had hoped for.
At the Kilmainham Gaol, you can stand in the courtyard where firing squads shot Pearse and 15 other leaders of the Rising. It was their near-summary executions that made them martyrs and turned public opinion toward their cause.
|William Butler Yeats|
The Yeats exhibit is absorbing in many ways, with moving readings of his best poems, displays of early manuscripts, candid documentary films about his politics and his love life, and ample information about his life as a public man. As a senator, Yeats led the committee that designed the coinage for the Irish Free State in 1926. He also argued eloquently against a ban on divorce in the Free State’s constitution. One of his best known poems, Easter 1916, is about the Rising.
Debate over the Rising and its aftermath has never ended, but with its 100th anniversary near, the arguments will surely sharpen. Here is a salvo fired under the headline “How should we remember 1916?” in The Irish Times during my stay in Dublin. The writer is Paddy McAvoy of Holywood in County Down. His mention of Scotland refers to a referendum on independence scheduled for next September. An early poll shows 29 percent in favor of independence, 44 percent opposed, the rest undecided. At 7-1 against, current betting odds are even starker. “Casuistry,” by the way, means the use of clever but unsound reasoning, especially in relation to moral questions.
“Stephen Collins’s thoughts on how 1916 should be commemorated should be welcomed. (‘Present-day politics has no place in 1916 remembrance,’ Opinion, November 9th). It is going to be a feat of high-wire casuistry for a nation looking back ruefully on a century of hardship and mismanagement – does anybody really know how many Irish people have been ‘disappeared’ by emigration in that period, for instance – to appear to be upbeat about an event that begs so many questions.
|At Kilmainham Gaol, a cross marks the spot of the execution of one of the 1916 Easter Rising martyrs.|
|Inside the Kilmainham Gaol, which has been used as a setting|
for many television shows and movies.
“Had the people been consulted about a precipitate lurch out of the union, it is unlikely that the leaders of the carnage would have got away with the thorny way they proposed.
“But no such consultation was offered. Rather than go through a hollow travesty in 2016 which puts those who oppose(d) violent methods, then and now, in the position of having to appear to be faking enthusiasm, (so as not to be accused of being West Britons, by the usual ‘guardians of the threshold’), for an event many wish hadn’t happened in the first place, I propose that a plebiscite be held on the role which guns, bombs, and intimidation, have played in this distressful country over the past 100 years.
“Violence, and its justification, have become a cancer in our society and those who have taken any act or part in it, and the many grisly forms it which has manifested itself, have made the rest of us pay a heavy price for their two-faced and delinquent recklessness. But for the Irish people to be asked to celebrate the bitter fruits sown by the gunman is surely too much, considering the other charades they are currently being forced to go along with?
“The Irish people should have been consulted about ‘armed struggle’ in 1916.