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Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

The Easter Rising – The Shot That Fired Us Towards Freedom

April is a wonderful month for the historical celebrant. We’ve already seen the centenary of the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic, the celebration of the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement just across the border to name but a few. But in our own little section of the country, one stands above all, one which has been commemorated in the public eye already with 2,000 people turning out to the GPO on Easter Sunday. But if we were to be pedantic there are still a one or two days to go before its exact anniversary.

The planned Easter Rising was the brainchild of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secretive organisation advocating physical force republicanism, which had been founded in the latter half of the 19th century following the failed rebellion of 1848. Despite their influence, numbers were small and while they could infiltrate, initiating a rebellion was a much harder task. So, when the Ulster unionists created the Ulster Volunteers in 1912 (morphing into the Ulster Volunteer Force by early 1913), the IRB spotted their chance and on the 25th November 1913, the Irish Volunteers were born, and the IRB had an army of men whom they could turn to their own agenda.

Following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1914, the IRB Supreme Council met to discuss a rising before the war could end, as well as the acceptance of any assistance the Germans might offer. Over the following years of the war a military council was established, populated by Tom Clarke, Éamonn Ceannt, Seán MacDermott, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and James Connolly, several of whom held positions in, and therefore exercised some measure of control over, the Volunteers. Plans were underway to undertake another uprising against British rule in the country, though this was against the wishes of both the Volunteers Executive (Eoin MacNeill) and the IRB executive (Denis McCullough) who were opposed to an uprising that lacked popular support.

Easter Sunday of 1916 was eventually decided upon. But, from the beginning, things went against the conspirators. Three days of marching activities around Easter Sunday were designed to alert Volunteers to the date of the uprising and get them into the city under pretence without raising the attention of either MacNeill or more importantly, Dublin Castle. However MacNeill got wind of what they were planning and threatened to “do everything possible short of phoning Dublin Castle” to prevent the rising from going ahead. When plans were revealed to MacNeill about a shipment of guns landing on Irish shores he was placated somewhat, believing their discovery would lead to a Castle crackdown on the Volunteers, in turn pushing popular opinion behind an insurrection. Unfortunately, Roger Casement, who had travelled to Germany to secure the weapons, was put ashore at Tralee and was arrested. Meanwhile, the German ship Aud on which the consignment of guns was being transported was intercepted by the Royal Navy and was scuttled by its Captain. MacNeill thus reverted to his original position, against an insurrection, and cancelled all Volunteer actions for the Sunday. This only postponed the planned rising by a day but, more importantly, vastly reduced the number of Volunteers ready and able in the city.

The result was that only a small number of Volunteers and members of Connolly’s Citizen Army were gathered in Dublin on Easter Sunday and not overly well armed or supplied. Early in the morning of April 24th 1916, a force of around 1,200 men took various positions around Dublin including the General Post Office (GPO, where a young Michael Collins fought alongside Padraig Pearse), Boland’s Mill – under the control of future president of Ireland Eamon de Valera – and the Four Courts, while failing to take the largely undefended Dublin Castle. The GPO was marked out as headquarters; two Republican flags were raised while Pearse read aloud a Proclamation of the Republic. The reason they were successful, despite their lower numbers, is simple – the British were caught unawares, and were un-coordinated on the first day of the insurrection. Soldiers were sent out on foot, several stumbling upon rebel strongholds, and dying in the process. On Tuesday evening, the British were responding more efficiently and martial law was declared. As the rebels failed to take the city’s main train stations, by the end of the week thousands of British soldiers were pouring into the city. Fighting was almost non-existent in many places. The British didn’t need to send troops in as the rebels had chosen several sites along the River Liffey – it was a simple matter of sending a gunboat along the river, shelling the various locations they had taken. Heavy casualties were experienced on the British side at Mount Street, where the commander ordered a frontal attack on the rebel’s position, yielding around 240 men dead or injured, but this was the exception rather than the rule.

Battered and bruised, with mounting casualties, Padraig Pearse issued an order for all companies to surrender on Saturday the 29th of April, and surrendered unconditionally to Brigadier-General W.H.M. Lowe. Around the country several other actions had also taken place, in places such as Ashbourne in County Meath, and Enniscorthy. However numbers were low due to Eoin MacNeill’s counter order and they were poorly armed following the failure of the Aud to deliver its cargo, although they had some successes.

Some may argue that the Rising was no success and when considered as a military operation it was a failure, in and of itself. After all they did little more than the uprisings of their ancestors, capturing several buildings or areas for a few days before relinquishing them to British troops following the surrender. Indeed had they captured Dublin Castle – they had failed to press on after attacking the guardroom to take the castle, which was lightly guarded – then success on the field may have been more of a possibility. The Republican motto during these years was ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’. But the fact of the matter is that the reasoning behind this was flawed, and that the rebellion was doomed from the beginning. The rebels undoubtedly believed that the best time to strike was while England was at war elsewhere, preoccupied and unable to really defend herself on yet another frontier. However, the opposite was true. Faced with a greater threat in the form of the main German line, England would always strike hard and fast to ensure Ireland remained under her thumb, to get rid of any unnecessary distractions and also to counter any threat of Germany using the island of Ireland as a base to strike out from.

And yet a success it was, with a bit of luck, due to the events and the reaction it spawned. Before the Rising, constitutional republicanism in the form of Home Rule had the support of the people in going about their aims peacefully. The rebels had some support – reports of crowds of people lining the streets as they were marched to barracks, spitting on the captured prisoners, are over-exaggerated – however this support was minimal at best. The decision to execute the ringleaders would change both public opinion and Ireland’s destiny. Fifteen were executed for their part in the events including the seven members of the IRB military council, who were also the seven signatories on the Proclamation. As the poet W.B. Yeats remarked afterwards, ‘All changed, changed utterly.’ Public opinion, noting the British occupation of the city and the executions of Republicans for their part in the events, began to turn considerably away from Home Rule and towards a more radical solution to British rule in Ireland. Sinn Féin benefited the most from this sway and when the Conscription Crisis of 1918 was added into the mix the result was a landslide victory for the party during the December elections to the British parliament. This public support was of huge importance during the War of Independence, fought between 1919 and 1921. Those who fought against the British army required the help of locals – in hiding them from troops, feeding them while on the run and relying on them not to give their positions away. Locals also ferried messages, information and sometimes weapons through the countryside and towns, often under the unsuspecting noses of the British army. Considering the eventual success of the war, and the handing back of the 26 counties to the control of the Irish people for the first time in centuries, then the rising can be certainly considerable an unqualified success, albeit in a way not entirely foreseen or intended. And it also was during the Easter Rising that Michael Collins received an eye-opener, alongside the education of Frongoch prison camp. Collins noted the futility in engaging the British in open warfare and taking open, hard-defended positions, and would use this experience when forming his guerrilla flying columns during the War of Independence, whose job it was to suddenly attack British soldiers, disappearing just as quickly.

In the following years, the rebels and their actions entered into the national and Republican consciousness, their graves becoming a national monument, the text of the Proclamation being taught in schools, and military and civil parades held on the anniversary each year. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Rising, Roibéárd Ó Faracháin, head of programming with RTÉ, was very clear about the insurrection’s importance to the country. “While still seeking historical truth,” he said, “the emphasis will be on homage, on salutation.” All hasn’t been rosy, however, and during the Troubles the Irish government discontinued the yearly parade, and even proscribed the celebration in 1976, and an official endorsement wasn’t returned until 1996. Controversy still rises each time the yearly plans to commemorate the Rising are brought forth, and will surely only deepen as the centenary of the event fast approaches. But despite the different ways historians, revisionists, journalists and the ordinary men and women of Ireland approach 1916, its impact on shaping our country can never be underestimated or, indeed, forgotten.

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Voices from the Grave

A recent Community Relations Council Report had two surprising revelations. Firstly, one of the less anticipated results of the peace process is the emergence of places like Derry city and Belfast as centres of urbanisation, witnessing the birth of a ‘cappuccino culture’ with rich people enjoying consumerism more than the tribalism the province is famed for. Indeed, Belfast hosted the last MTV awards, and Derry was awarded the City of Culture contract. Think back fifteen or twenty years. Northern Ireland would be the last place anyone would think to hold such events.

The second revelation is far darker, hearkening back to the days before the peace process that brought about the end of the war between the Provos and Loyalist paramilitaries. Between 2005 and 2009, Derry city saw 452 sectarian attacks. Violence on the part of anti-peace  Republican offshoots, such as the Real IRA, is ongoing. Para-militarism has by no means been dealt with satisfactorily and the various issues that divided each side of the conflict are still bubbling beneath the surface. Dr Paul Nolan poses a very interesting question –“Which is it to be? Are we leaving the Troubles behind, or does the continuation of sectarian division mean that at some point in the future the underlying tensions could see a violent eruption?”

The book on which the 2010 RTE documentary Voices from the Grave was based draws heavily from the interviews of two major players from either side – former senior IRA member Brendan Hughes and David Ervine, who had been in the UVF. Both were interviewed at length by Boston College, which traces the movements of the conflict from the two perspectives, offering a hugely intimate and insightful view into the politics and plans of the Republican and Loyalist movements. Hughes was involved with the IRA from the beginning of the conflict, commanding IRA units in Belfast, operating right under the noses of the RUC and the British army. He boasted an impressive Republican pedigree, one which protected him from discreditation by Sinn Féin in his later years spent criticising the movement, and included a daring escape from Long Kesh prison. Of particular interest is Hughes’ (now deceased) revelations about Gerry Adams, who continually denies any involvement in the IRA and the resentment of old Republicans at his actions.

“If Gerry had told me [in the Seventies] that tomorrow was Sunday when I knew it was Monday, I would have thought twice, that maybe it was Sunday, because he said it,” Hughes said. “Now, if he told me that today was Friday, even though it was Friday, I’d call him a f—— liar.”

Hughes maintains the order for the murder of Jean McConville, a suspected British informer, came directly from Adams who later claimed he was still in prison at the time of her death. So too, Hughes claims, did the order for the killing of another suspected informer – IRA man Paddy Joe Crawford – come from Adams. Crawford was hung in Long Kesh, and reported as a suicide.

Unfortunately the memoirs of David Ervine are almost overshadowed by the frank and often startling revelations by Hughes which is a pity, as Ervine too was a senior man in his own organisation. Still he reveals interesting if less monumental facts; the links between Republican and Unionist paramilitary prisoners who aided one side in the feud between the UDA and the UVF, and the less than respectful view many Loyalists had of Ian Paisley, the firebrand preacher who was seen to say one thing then eventually do another.

Despite their blunt admissions about their involvement in para-militarism and the violence that came with it, the two are almost excused as the result of outside and ancient forces. Hughes came from a long line of Republicans; his father spent time in prison for his actions, and grew up around the presence of former IRA heroes and the need to protect the Catholic community, while David Ervine’s participation is seen as the inevitable outcome of the attacks on his own community. One thing is certain and clear – the effect of the conflict on the moral compasses of both sides. Both are presented as normal human beings, with friends and family, who are forced by the conflict to do terrible things, with some regret. Hughes showed some remorse over the killings of innocent bystanders though none over the deaths of soldiers or Loyalists, legitimate targets in his eyes. Ervine makes some attempt on his part to criticise the actions of the Shankhill butchers, but stresses his opposition was on a personal level, hinting that murders effectively did their job – terrorising the Catholic population.

The two lived out starkly separate and differing lives as the conflict moved to its close. Hughes left the IRA a disillusioned man, never happy with the peace process and those who brought it about and died in 2008, sad and bitter in a Belfast flat. At his funeral, Gerry Adams was prevented from giving the oration for his former colleague, an indication that the rift between the two and what they stood for had never healed. On the other hand, Ervine, who died a year earlier in 2007, moved towards the respectable side of political Unionism, joining the Ulster Unionist group in Stormont.

Essentially, Voices from the Grave charts the worst moments of the conflict that marred Northern Ireland for several decades, and gives its reader a stern warning and caution for the future, should those dark days ever seem likely to return.

The Top Ten Most Hated Men In Ireland

We have in recent years grown accustomed to hating those who have inflicted pain upon us. Sadly given the current state the country is in most of these hate figures stem from past and current governments who have sold us down the river. But among this batch of hate figures lies more than political greed and ignorance as infamous sports stars and circus clowns who pose as singers also feature in our list of the top ten most hated men in Ireland.

1)Phil Hogan-Ireland’s very own Mr. Fix It has become a forlorn figure in recent weeks after his disastrous attempts to persuade 2 million people to pay the household charge failed miserably. As of the March 31st deadline less than half of those eligible had yet to pay the €100 charge. Cracks are also beginning to emerge in the coalition such is the ferocity of the argument against paying the tax.

2)Bertie Ahern-A man of many friends who has become the face of the recession. The former Irish Taoiseach used his many bank accounts to swindle money from left, right and centre. Rumour has it the Oxford dictionary are redefining the meaning of corruption. Expect a picture of Bertie to feature beside it. The disgraced former Fianna Fàil leader is also available for promotional work, if you would like to contact him simply hashtag #willdoanythingformoney or open a cupboard near you. He may be lurking nearby.

3)Sean Fitzpatrick-The wanker banker is a cult hate figure amongst the Irish people having been at the forefront of the banking crash. The ex Anglo Irish chief hammered out loan after loan and will never be accountable for his actions. Prosecution should befall him sometime soon if there is any justice in this world.

4)Brian Cowen-hardly surprising that the iconic alcoholic and legendary Irish ballad singer features on this list. Far be it from me to mention in the first sentence that he succeeded his comrade Bertie, such was his lack of leadership and constant failings. Biffo will forever be remembered as nothing more than an incompetent and senseless moron whose main claim to fame is a drunken television appearance.

5)Enda Kenny-One year into his tenure as Irish Taoiseach the man viewed by many as our very own problem solver is drawing the ire of those who elected him. Pre election promises have failed to materialise but then again what’s new. Has “tried” his best to be seen to be repressing the urgencies of the European Union on many issues, imparticular our low corporation tax. Expect the act to fall sometime soon and Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy will get their way. Big changes are required if Kenny is to return to popularity amongst the Irish public.

6)Gerry Adams-Vile, deceiving, inept just few of the words that could critique the life and times of the Sinn Fèin leader. The republican has more secrets than Pandora’s box. His chequered history is common knowledge amongst the people of Ireland. Adams tested the waters last year when he put forward his comrade Martin McGuinness in the presidential election. He will no doubt have been surprised by the reception McGuinness got and expect Adams to run for the Àras in the future.

7)Jedward-Love them or loathe them you can’t ignore them. Despite not having a musical note between them the Lucan duo have gone on to achieve great success following their stint on X-factor. After a solid turnout at last year’s Eurovision, one would expect Jedwardmania to propel Ireland further up the ranks this year.

8) Ajai Chopra-The deputy director of the IMF’s European department has been a regular visitor to these shores in recent months following the decision by the Irish government to sell our economic sovereignty to the powers that be in Brussels and Berlin. “Chopper” is a 20 year veteran with the IMF and shoulders some of the blame for the burden of debt placed on the Irish people. Had it not been for the economic ineptitude of repetitive Irish government’s he would not have become the notorious celebrity he is today.

9)Brian Kennedy-The Voice of Ireland himself. Self proclaimed media whore, once wrote a song or two and continues to publicise his less than popular book by making ridiculous insinuations. Irish rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll has yet to clarify whether or not he is in fact Kennedy’s sweetheart.

10)Thierry Henry-Irish people certainly know how to hold a grudge and no one will ever forget the France striker’s handball that effectively ended Irish hopes of making it to the 2010 World Cup.

JFK – The Irish Connection

This week the Late Late Show has reached somewhat of a wider audience than usual. Presenter Ryan Tubridy agreed to sit on the other side of the table as he appeared on NBC’s The Today Show. Tubridy made his appearance on the popular US morning show on Wednesday to promote his book ‘JFK in Ireland: Four Days That Changed a President.’ “I am going to talk about Ireland, my book, JFK, and perhaps use it as an opportunity to wear the green jersey and get people to return to Ireland like JFK did. I’m going to be banging the drum for Ireland,” Tubridy told the Irish Independent.

Released in 2010, the book examines Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Ireland, a visit JFK himself described as “the best four days of my life,” and his last visit to the country before his assassination five months later. Kennedy, who was America’s first Irish-Catholic President, was a member of two families with a rich history stretching back to Ireland. The Fitzgerald family was from Bruff in County Limerick and in the famine years emigrated to the New World to escape the most devastating effects. The first Irish-American Fitzgerald was born John Francis Fitzgerald in Boston on February 11th 1863. It was through this line JFK’s mother came from; Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the daughter of John Francis and Mary Hannon of Acton, Massachusetts – herself of Irish descent. Meanwhile, another Irish family had also emigrated to America during the Great Famine; Patrick Kennedy left his home in Dunganstown, Co. Wexford and sailed for the States. There he married Bridget Murphy who would be eventually widowed and left to care for four sons, the youngest of whom was named Patrick Joseph, whose future grandson would become his country’s President.

Boston was the first port of settlement for both families, and became their home in this new country. They sought to take advantages of all the economic opportunities the US had to offer, although first they had to overcome a wave of discrimination against Irish-Catholic immigrants which was sweeping the country at that time. First they worked as peddlers and labourers, gradually moving up in the world to take positions as clerks and tavern owners. And, by the end of the 19th century, both of JFK’s grandfathers had become successful politicians in their own right; John Fitzgerald in particular served as Mayor of Boston and in the US Congress.

JFK was intensely proud of his Irish heritage and his family’s hardworking roots. During his visit to Ireland he remarked to the people of New Ross, Wexford – “When my great-grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”

The John F Kennedy library in Boston is a lasting reminder of the President’s link to the country of his ancestors. Amongst its treasures is a large Bible, brought over from Ireland by his great grandparents. An 1850 edition, it carries with it a record of the Fitzgerald family, including a marking of the birth of one John Fitzgerald Kennedy, born May 29th 1917, and was the Bible he placed one hand on when being sworn in as President of the United States almost 44 years later. Along with its other exhibits is a Waterford Crystal vase, etched into it is an Irish homestead, an immigrant ship followed by the White House, symbolising the journey of the Fitzgerald and Kennedy families.

During his four-day visit he made a stop at Limerick on the 29th of June. There he told the gathered crowd – “This is not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection, and I certainly will come back in the springtime.” Five months later, Ireland’s only claim on an American President was dead, assassinated in Dallas while on a political trip to the state of Texas. The honour guard at his graveside in Arlington National Cemetery was the 37th Cadet Class of the Irish Army.

“I must say that though other days may not be so bright, as we look toward the future, that the brightest days will continue to be those we spent with you here in Ireland.”

-JFK, Eyre Square, Co. Galway, 29th June 1963

“Kony 2012” One click to get, one click to share, one click to move

KONY 2012
A name that, until a few days ago, did not sound familiar, neither suggested something. A name that, despite what was underneath, could not puncture the news coverage. Or simply, so far, someone had not done enough to illuminate the dust that often falls on this kind of events. Now, thanks to the web and to the social networking sites, thanks to some enterprising and confident guys, the name of Kony speaks, uncovers, touches and leads to think. The hope is that it leads to act too.

Uganda: thousands and thousands of children abducted and driven to fight, thousands tortured, raped and mutilated. Many people now know that. Many people now know that Joseph Kony is the most worrisome and hunted criminal by the International Criminal Court. Many people now want to do something. All that the UN was not able to do in several years was made by a simple video in a few days: “Kony 2012”. The most viewed video of the moment, uploaded and shared on YouTube and on Vimeo. And the communicative purpose of the Californian guys part of “Invisible Children” has been reached.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea, whose time has come, whose time is now”. These words open the video. These are the words to which the video succeed, in his 30 minutes of time, to give meaning. Many people have already seen it. For those who have not already done so, it is right to provide. For 30 minutes that inform, 30 minutes that shake our conscience. For 30 minutes of ‘life’. It is a suggestive and provocative short film, “cool” as it is said among youth. Jason Russell, head of the project, wanted it in that way on purpose, because, if the target is to show it, no one would see the umpteenth boring documentary about Africa. It is a matter of clicks.

Son of a Catholic catechist, twenty-five years ago he took the helm of a group of rebels, renaming it the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA). Kony, in his opinion inspired by the Bible and the Ten Commandments, acts in the name of a theocracy in Uganda. Justified by this cause and playing the guru of the moment, he kidnaps, enslaves, tortures, kills and forced to kill… tens of thousands of children. The initiation is stark: children are forced to kill their family members, drink their blood and eat their liver. Nothing is more ferocious. Everything is in the name of God.

The International Criminal Court accuses him 33 times. Of them, 12 are crimes against humanity. We talk about slavery, rape, murder. We talk about children. Several operations, in recent years, have been organized to stop this monster. His name has never appeared in a newspaper significantly, let alone these operations have been successful. There is criticism on the viral phenomenon of these days and on the action of Invisible Children, but now many people know who Joseph Kony is. Thanks to the Internet and the power of the social networking sites, we know about these children.

Even in a battle of clicks, knowledge is understanding, knowledge is consciousness. Even in a battle of clicks, if there is a chance to change something… it originates just from knowledge.

February 6th 1958: Ireland Loses Its Rising Star, Manchester Loses Its Heroes

They were the heroes of a generation, a team on a rapid rise to the summit of world football, they were the Busby Babes.

Led by the iconic Sir Matt Busby this Manchester United side stood on the brink of history, hoping to become only the third team to win three successive English league titles and becoming the first British side to lift the European Cup.

 But unfortunately this new generation of stars were unable to continue their meteoric rise as tragedy ensued on February 6th 1958. The team was returning from a European Cup match in Serbia against Red Star Belgrade when they had to make a stop in Munich for refueling. After refueling, the pilots, Captains James Thain and Kenneth Rayment, attempted to take off twice but were forced to abandon both attempts. Captain Thain rejected an overnight stay in Munich in favour of a third take-off attempt which ultimately led to the tragic events we now remember 54 years later.

By the time of the third attempt takeoff the ground had been covered in slush and snow. The aircraft hit the slush and lost its velocity making take-off impossible. It ploughed through a fence past the end of the runway, before the port wing hit a nearby house and was torn off.

 23 of the people on board British European Airways flight 609 died while 21 survived, thanks to the heroics of the United goalkeeper who returned to the stricken plane after hearing a crying baby who he later pulled from the wreck. Among the fatalities where 8 Manchester United players including Duncan Edwards who had the footballing world at his feet. Edwards died some days later in a Munich hospital having emerged from the crash.

Another one of the fledgling Busby Babes who perished that day was Dublin native Liam “Billy” Whelan. The name of Whelan is not synonymous with other footballing greats of the time period as the 22year old was cut short in his prime.

The Irishman was born into a large catholic family and suffered the grievance of losing his father in 1943 when he was only eight years old. Yet such was his determination to reach the top he continued to plug away at Home Farm until he was noticed by scouts from the famed Manchester club.

He quickly gained recognition for himself banging in goals from his midfield role. His 26 goal salvage in 1956-57 endeared him to the fans of United and earned him praise from United legend Bobby Charlton.

 Whelan amassed 98 appearances for United during his short time as the rising star of Old Trafford, clinically scoring 52 goals thus showing his prowess and capabilities in front of goal. The true extent of his potential will sadly never be known. Yet his standing amongst the eight Busby Babes will forever be revered in the world of English football.

We can only imagine what would have been had it not for that faithful flight before which the unconfident flyer remarked “Well, if this is the time, then I’m ready”. R.I.P Busby Babes February 6th 1958

TG4 Documentary On Female IRA Members Causes A Stir

A new TG4 series has become mired in controversy after the broadcast of its first episode on Thursday night. Mná an IRA is a six part documentary series which, according to its makers, Loopline Film, will investigate the “involvement of women in active service with the provisional IRA in modern times.”

The series begins with a look into the life of Rose Dugdale, born to a wealthy family in England, educated in Oxford University, before becoming increasingly politically radicalised during the late 1960s and early 1970s, culminating in her joining the Provisional IRA in 1973.

There is something rather unsettling, however, about the way in which she is portrayed. From the beginning, she is referred to, for example, as a former soldier, and a member of Oglaigh na hÉireann, a title reserved for the only legitimate armed forces on this island, the Irish army. The programme charts her ascension in the socialist movement in England, moving over to republicanism in Ireland, interspersed with snippet interviews with former jailed republicans, or academic authorities. They paint a very bleak picture of life for Catholics in the North during the 1970s, certainly evoking sympathy for their existence as second class citizens. What is disturbing is the way in which the violent response, the campaign waged by the IRA which claimed the lives of more civilians than occupiers, is almost normalised. As Rose herself says during one of the many clips of her interview, one had to accept, when taking up the cause of Ireland’s freedom, that you might have to kill people. Darker still is the assumption, “that’s the only way you deal with them.” And this seems quite normal, acceptable. That is not to lay the blame solely at the feet of physical force Republicans; obviously each of those groups in the North was as bad as the other. Dugdale comes out of the programme looking like a freedom fighter, enjoying a well-earned rest after a hard life of necessary violence. And, although the focus of the programme, as stated by its makers, is on those involved in the IRA campaigns and why they joined in the first place, noticeably absent are any hard questions about her decision to pursue the violent route, and, of course, the impact of her actions on the victims and their families.

In an interview with John Murray on RTE radio, Dugdale went even further, dismissing the notion of IRA atrocities. “I wouldn’t accept that the IRA has carried out atrocities,” she contended, “I think that is your language, it is certainly not mine. I think that is a fairly ridiculous statement…” In the end, this is a woman who took part in the raid on Russborough House, pistol whipping an old man and his wife before tying them up in a chair, who threw bombs inside milk cans from a helicopter hoping to land them in a barracks, and who completely condoned a plan in which her boyfriend kidnapped a doctor in an attempt to release her from prison. “Fair play to anyone that was involved in that,” she says. The whole programme seems like a celebration of her life of violence rather than a condemnation. If these were the actions of Unionists, would they be glorified in the same way by TG4?

People may argue over the cause at the heart of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and even more so about the violence wielded by those on either side. That period in our history is a shameful one, regardless of stance, and cannot be understood as well by those of us examining it second hand. What can be understood, however, is that the violence and bloodshed suffered in the North over those 30 years is nothing to be praised, nothing to be glorified, not forgotten certainly, but remembered, something to be learned from. The one positive about these programmes is the insight into the mindset of the people involved in the IRA’s campaign against the British state, the complete willingness to use violence even when there are other methods available, and the way in which they completely rationalise attempts at murder.

Since the programme aired last week, a board member of TG4 has criticised the series, arguing that executives must now take a closer look at the direction of the remaining five episodes. Concubhar O Liathan stated that Mna an IRA is a “serious stain” on the television channel. Writing in the Sunday Independent, O Liathan argued that “If the first programme is any indication of what’s to come, it will be nauseating and heartbreaking for the victims of the IRA and their relatives.”

Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Independent earlier this week warned of the dangers of halting free speech, speaking of Trinity College’s decision to prevent BNP leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust denying historian, David Irving, from speaking at the Hist. Freedom of speech, he argued “is not dependent on intellect or eloquence or political content. Quite the opposite. It tolerates ideas that are offensive, cretinous, ludicrous, bizarre, grotesque and nauseating, merely drawing the line at incitement to hate or to inflict violence.” People like Rose Dugdale should indeed be allowed their platform, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with her. We just have to be careful what they say from it and how we shape it.

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