Patrick Murphy: Modern Ireland is far removed from the ethics and ideals of the Easter Rising

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy is an Irish News columnist and former director of Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education.

The Proclamation was read by Padraig Pearse outside the GPO on O'Connell Street - then Sackville Street - on April 24 1916
The Proclamation was read by Padraig Pearse outside the GPO on O'Connell Street - then Sackville Street - on April 24 1916

Who are the true inheritors of the ideas and ideals of the 1916 Rising? In what is effectively a competition for historical purity, several organisations claim to be the legitimate successors to Pearse and Connolly.

Tomorrow, having tramped the streets and swaggered on side roads, they will read the 1916 Proclamation as documentary proof of their republican qualifications. They will include the Dublin government, political parties such as Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin and a number of smaller republican groups.

So which, if any, represents the one true political faith of the Easter Rising?

Perhaps the most reasoned way to decide is to analyse their activities, beliefs and behaviour in the context of the Proclamation.  That might help to clarify how the principles of MacDiarmada, MacDonagh and Ceannt are faring in the modern era.

The Proclamation justifies the Rising on the basis of Ireland’s “old tradition of nationhood". That puts it at odds with the Dublin government, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, since they all believe that Ireland now has two nations: Protestant and Catholic.

The Proclamation saw this religious division as, “differences carefully fostered by an alien government”. It is hard to imagine Pearse sitting in Stormont, especially one based on sectarian division, while implementing the policies of that alien government.

It is also unlikely that Clarke and Plunkett would be comfortable with sectarian electioneering, or degrading the national flag by hanging it from lampposts.

The record in government of Fianna Fáil in the south and Sinn Féin in the north contravenes the Proclamation’s principle of cherishing all the children of the nation equally. The evidence lies in widespread poverty, hunger and homelessness in both states.

Some might argue that the Proclamation can no longer be taken literally. Fair point, but then why not leave it as a historical document, rather than reading it aloud with such self-serving conviction?

The Proclamation also highlights our right “to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible”.

Unionists’ belief in subordination to Britain places them out of line with the Proclamation. But most nationalists now share that subordination through their backing for the Good Friday Agreement, which supports what SF used to call British rule in Ireland.  

So as most colour parties march off tomorrow, they will probably be in step with each other, but out of step with the Proclamation.

Indeed, unlike unionists, nationalists also accept the right of the EU to implement its laws here, without elected representatives having a say in making those laws. That arguably makes the north an EU colony.

We might reasonably assume that the Proclamation’s seven signatories would resist any part of Ireland being a colony, leaving most of tomorrow’s marchers adrift from the 1916 concept of sovereignty. On that issue, the Rising’s leaders would be more aligned today with unionists, rather than nationalists. (Try reconciling the Windsor Framework with the Proclamation.)

This does not suggest that the social and economic policies of the DUP, for example, reflect the Proclamation. However, it might be reasonably argued that while unionists are single (pro-UK) unionists, nationalists here are now double (pro-UK and pro-EU) unionists.

As for the right of the people of Ireland to ownership of Ireland, tell that to the German banks, the vulture funds and the EU’s monetary policy.

Many nationalists seem to think that the Easter Rising was only for them and particularly for their own self-anointed elite grouping. This conflicts with the Proclamation: “The Irish Republic claims the allegiance of every Irish man and Irish woman.”

Any of tomorrow’s speakers planning to demonise unionists might reflect on that.

The Easter Rising was for everyone in Ireland. The sad thing is that unionists do not know that. The even sadder thing is that many of those marching tomorrow do not know it either - and the few who do, pretend not to.

Which leaves modern Ireland far removed from the ethics and ideals of the Easter Rising.