Flags and Proclamations
“Maybe we should let the past be a foreign country” was the sweeping headline of a Brendan O’Connor critique on current and pending commemorations and celebrations of the 1916 -1922 period in Irish History. I imagine that it was a kind of Devil’s Advocate approach. But there is a proverb from somewhere that says; ‘Where everyone thinks alike nobody thinks very much’. Brendan enunciated concerns which I would have myself about next year’s Easter 1916 commemorations especially, going, in ordinary parlance, ‘over the top’. There is no commentary that I see suggesting that this o.t.t. approach might be quite dangerous. The 50th Anniversary commemorations/celebrations (which of those is the appropriate word?) in 1966 was a very broad and unquestioned commemoration. Though from memory that is not fully true. A Jesuit priest named Father Shaw wrote a strident contra to the P.H. ‘blood sacrifice’ philosophy for the Jesuit magazine ‘Studies’. The Editor did not publish it then but held it back for a number of years before it was eventually published. 1966 was immediately before the troubles exploded in Northern Ireland and possibly contributed to them which led to thirty plus dark years there. The situation in Northern Ireland is still fragile as we can see and the Centenary celebrations next year will be looked at in a very different light by around 50% of their people. A certain percentage of people in the Irish State will also be uncomfortable with it all for a variety of reasons.
Schools in 1966 also got a copy of the 1916 Proclamation and some students may remember having to learn the text of it off by heart, in some cases in Irish also. This is happening again next week with army officers calling to all schools presenting them with a copy of the Proclamation and an Irish flag.
I have mentioned before the texts of National Anthems and how little heed we pass on their words as we rattle them off in Croke Park or wherever. The proclamation begins; “In the name of God and the dead generations from which she receives her old traditions of nationhood, Ireland through us summon her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.” This is stirring rhetoric continuing Pearse’s oration tone at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa. Then there is the demand that; “The Irish Republic is entitled to and herby claims the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman” a pretty big claim. In paragraph four it articulates the worthy sentiment of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. After one hundred years how do you feel that aspiration has progressed?
The document is of its time and history. My question though, echoing Brendan 0’Connor; Is it appropriate that Irish Army officers visit all the national schools in the country and bring this document to those schools, for public display I imagine, possibly for the indoctrination of very young and impressionable children?
The flag is a different symbol and we use symbols all the time. It is a country’s most important symbol. I have written a note before on the lack of respect that is often shown to the national flag. Its appropriate display is a good thing. (Other countries have the flag very visible in their society as in the USA for instance). There are protocols with its display regarding time of day, its position relative to other flags, not touching the ground, and so on.
Once I visited Bushmills, a small tourist destination not far from The Giants Causeway in Antrim. It must have been around the Marching Season and the town was festooned with Union Jacks. I found the degree of this unsettling in a town with many visitors from a different background.
Illustrating Brendan O’Connor’s piece was an official Government picture taken at the removal ceremony for Thomas Kent at Cork Prison before his state funeral at St, Nicholas Church in Cork for reburial in the family cemetery. Thomas Kent had been executed in Cork shortly after the Easter Rising after an engagement with the R.I.C. and he is thereby linked with those executed as a result of the Rising. The ceremony and funeral was broadcast live on RTE 1.
I am struggling really to enunciate clearly my feelings on these events and those to come. What I would hope for would be moderation, dignity and an understanding that not everybody wants to flaunt the green flag in commemorating/celebrating this complex period of Irish history.
(Brendan O’Connor Sunday Independent September 20th page 28 Comment & Analysis)
The Fennelly Commission. Interim Report (n) and (o) Summary and Conclusions.
It is a bit odd that, on one of the Vincent Browne programmes, two politicians, one of them Eamon ó Cuiv, admitted that they had not read The Fennelly Report into issues including the ‘retiring’ of the former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. They would probably have got away with reading the summary that I have nominated as a heading above. Anyone interested who is reading this can access the Report online. I went to the trouble of reading the summary. One of the issues much debated is whether the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, orchestrated the removal of the Garda Commissioner. You can make up your own mind from Mister Fennelly’s carefully couched language.
Terms of Reference 1 (O)
1. The event which precipitated the (Garda) Commissioner to retire on the 25th of March 2014 was the visit of the Secretary General of the Department of Justice to his home late on the night of Monday the 24th March to inform him that the Taoiseach …….
20……would not be in a position where he might not be able to express confidence in the Commissioner…
21. The Commissioner interpreted this as..(time to go). His request for a stay of a couple of months was denied.
The Taoiseach has emphasised that he did not seek to remove the Commissioner.
From the summary contents of the Fennelly Report this stretches credibility. It may not be up there with Gerry Adams saying he was never in the I.R.A. but from a Taoiseach it is discomfiting.
Meeting Long Ago Neighbours
On Wednesday of last week I met up with people who had been neighbours when I was a boy. It was 1959 when the McGuires upped sticks and went to Australia. Australia then was at the edge of the world as we knew it. They had an ‘American style Wake’ only this time it was farther, Australia. The message behind ‘Wake’ was that we would not meet again. The world has changed since then of course but we were not to know that then. I was at that ‘Wake’ and to me as a boy it was just a rare party. It was a decade when people came and went and the railway stations, many small ones now long closed, were then busy locations. I still have a tough brown suitcase salvaged from that time.
On Wednesday night I heard some of the background to their emigration decision. Some members of the family were already dispersed to New York, London and Australia. The parents had actually been in the States in the twenties but were encouraged to come home to take over the farm. However while the father was comfortable with that Mrs. McGuire had seen New York and was not for staying down on the farm. So after the Christmas of ’59 they started on their odyssey taking the boat from Dun Laoighre to Holyhead and the train to Euston. On that same boat, I was told by Jackie, was my sister Carmel returning to Ealing, London where she worked as nurse. The McGuires stayed with a family member already in London and had another leaving party in Hanwell. Then it was that long seven week journey to Melbourne where another family member lived.
The youngest member of the family, Charlie, was my buddy and apparently he got on well. I was on a visit to Australia in 2001 and three members of the family; Ita, Mamie and Charlie made sure to meet me on my first night there. For a number of hours we ‘walked’ in our minds and memories the roads of Castlecoote and adjoining townlands as I relayed the current status of those places. It was obvious but not unusual that the area was frozen in their minds since ’59.
A few mornings later another brother, George I think, who could not come the first night called to the hotel to meet me also. He did not talk much but listened and maybe saw in me a link with his original home. I left an Irish newspaper I still had and I promised to send him a couple of the Roscommon papers after I returned to my own home.
I encouraged Charlie to write an account of the McGuire lives as I am not aware of much on the Irish –Australian experience before the modern exodus.
Last week’s return to Castlecoote had the air of a swan-song gathering about it as, with other former neighbours of the McGuires, we all swopped stories and memories again and bid our goodbyes.
The All-Ireland Final
Wasn’t it such a pity that the weather was so unkind to Kerry and Dublin and the spectators for the All-Ireland football final? The pitch too became a skating rink, potentially dangerous, due to the rain. Croke Park management will have to see if anything can be done about that regarding the surface. The better team won and could have won by a much wider margin. Their challenge now is to do a double. A disappointed Kerry are likely to intensify their challenge for next year and with the emergence of talent as evidenced by their second successive minor win the material is coming on stream.
The reputation of the Kerry manager, Eamon Fitzmaurice, was seriously dented though with his approach to the game in terms of his team selection and substitutions. The positioning of Gooch Cooper way out the field was puzzling and it was sad to see this great player struggling to achieve shards of his former greatness. Even on the side-line at least one Kerry selector seemed to be at odds with the manager. Still I feel that he will return more determined to succeed.
It was a poor football and hurling championship. There are a number of rule modifications which are necessary and which should emerge in the pre-convention season.
Another thing, I had a ticket for the Upper Deck of the Davin Stand which cost €80. A lot of people will say weren’t you lucky to have a ticket? However, I could be wrong regarding pricing structure but I believe there is just one price for stand tickets i.e. €80. If that is correct (and let me know if it is not) how could it suggested that a ticket in the upper deck of the Davin Stand could be the same price as one in the lower deck of the Hogan Stand?
St. Brigid’s should overcome Clann na Gael and Roscommon Gaels should do likewise to Padraig Pearse’s in the county semi-finals on Sunday next in Kiltoom.
Boyle Week-End Fixtures
The National Automation Limited minors will play St Faithleach's in the Division 2 Championship play-off in Kilglass on Saturday next at 4pm. Your support in this vital game is requested. The Cooney Motors/ Cooney’s Centra Juniors will play Oran in the Junior B Championship at 12 noon on Sunday next in the Abbey Park.