A Reflection On The 1916 Rising

Plunkett Nugent reflects on the Easter Rising. The piece featured on the website of the 1916 Societies.

‘Oh wise men riddle me this: what if the dream come true?’ – PH Pearse

Plunkett Nugent (right)

The recent tsunami of revisionism has sought to draw a direct parallel between the noble self-sacrifice of those who struck for Irish Freedom on Easter Monday 1916 and those who were senselessly and cynically ordered ‘over the top’ at the Somme bloodbath a few months later. The former have in recent times been depicted as mere dreamers, poets and artists. They were of course all those things and so much more, the only Irish soldiers to die in the period of the ‘War of the Cousins’, during which the ruling elites ensured the mass slaughter of so many. The latter were mere cannon fodder enticed to their deaths by a sectarian desire to trump democracy in Ireland or even worse, by false promises to allow Irish people limited control over Irish affairs.

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic always had pride of place in my late grandfather’s house. As a very young boy I struggled to read some of what were to me then very strange words that I had not yet encountered in any of my early school books. Today, when I read it or hear it read aloud, I marvel again at its construction and content, a tri-partite treatise summing up our historic campaigns for freedom, a charter for fundamental human rights well ahead of its time and an Augustinian reminder of all that was sacred in a just war.

Typeset by Christopher Brady from equipment commandeered by Michael Molloy and later distributed throughout Dublin by Helena Molony, the Proclamation was read first by Padraig Pearse on the plinth of the GPO and later by Thomas J Clarke at the foot of Nelson’s Pillar. Few if any listening could have envisaged its importance or the bravery of those acting on its legitimacy. The following days and weeks fully illuminated their courage and their steadfastness. Sixteen of them paid the ultimate sacrifice in Kilmainham, Cork and Pentonville prisons.

Each political party who claim some sort of lineage from 1916 has in their turn betrayed the high idealism of the Rising for narrow political short-term gain. And yet 100 years on those Republicans who still cherish the dream have hope. The law of unintended consequences ensured that the deaths of the leaders breathed new life into the War of (partial) Independence. Time and again democracy rears its head. Scotland almost tore the ‘United Kingdom’ apart and will no doubt be more successful on the next occasion. A ‘Brexit’ would remove at a stroke any cover for the lie that ‘the conflict is over’ with new ‘watchtowers overlooking Aughnacloy’.

Others may again accuse those who refuse to accept British rule in any part of our country of being dreamers. That is hardly an original criticism. Somehow, someday, the matter of ensuring that Republic ‘takes her place among the nations of the world’ will be determined democratically by ‘the suffrages of all her men and women’ through a One Ireland One Vote referendum.

  • Plunkett Nugent (above right) is a lifelong Irish republican from the Galbally area in East Tyrone and a founding member of the PH Pearse Society Galbally-Cappagh. As a keen advocate of human rights he works as a Barrister At Law and is highly valued in his local community, with his many and varied contributions to local politics, history and culture widely respected in Galbally, its hinterland and beyond.

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