Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Easter 1916 – a terrible beauty?

This year’s Easter is the historical centenary of Dublin’s 1916 Easter rebellion for an independent Island-of-Ireland Republic, which began on the Easter Bank Holiday of Monday 24 April, the day before our first Anzac Day commemoration.

And like our Anzac Day, it became a foundational myth of the Irish nation, and, equally, the myth is so important that it deserves to be dispassionately (but not disrespectfully, much less sneeringly) examined for accuracy and (continuing) relevance. Such an examination immediately gives a new perspective on the notion of ‘foundation’, because the 32-county Island-of-Ireland was well advanced toward the same ‘Dominion’ status which we had achieved on 9 July 1900.

By 4 August 1914, almost 30 years after PM Gladstone’s first Irish ‘Home Rule’ bill was defeated, the British Parliament’s Commons (including 70 Irish nationalist MPs) and Lords (who were persuaded by George V’s threat of creating enough peers to get a majority) passed such a Bill, and Ireland was on track to be the fourth ‘Dominion’ after Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but . . .

. . . there was to be a delay, an unforeseen delay, an unfortunate and immovable delay and its name was The Great War: implementation of the Act would resume after the war’s end, perhaps by Christmas.

Twenty months later, that prospect was destroyed when a “minority of a minority took it upon themselves, with little popular support or prospect of success to begin a revolution. The ‘terrible beauty’ of W B Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’ was created, not by their act of folly, but by the stupidity of the authorities in executing the leaders.

“Even so Yeats maintained a distance. ‘Was it needless death after all?’ he asked in the same poem. ‘For England may keep faith /For all that is done and said’.

“But the event passed into bloodstained myth, as some of its leaders wanted. Padraic Pearse, the schoolmaster who was in many ways the soul of the rising, had conceived a frankly religious notion of what Irish nationalism should be. ‘Like a divine religion,’ he had written, ‘national freedom bears the marks of unity, of sanctity, of catholicity, of apostolic succession’. It was not to be questioned by later generations.”

The Irish Free State (enacted by the 1922 Anglo-Irish Treaty, but which excluded six of the nine Ulster counties with Protestant / Unionist / Loyalist majorities) suffered a brutal civil war, the most significant casualty being the murder of Michael Collins by IRA gunmen; Collins was possibly the only man with the statesman-like qualities to lead the new nation into the new century, and he joined the long list of ‘children devoured by their revolutions’ (think of what Stalin did to the ‘Old Bolsheviks’).

In the longer term, the Free State became a priest-ridden (but not quite clerico-fascist) narrow-minded nation dominated by the Jansenist / Puritan Irish RC Church. But it never degenerated as far as such Latin American republics did – for example, despite the widespread belief that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”, the Free State aided Great Britain’s war against Nazi Germany as far as the limits of neutrality would let it; nor were Irish citizens prevented from enlisting in Britain’s armed forces. Nor did Dublin governments support IRA terror campaigns in the North.

The day-to-day damage was that Ireland effectively did not progress from the sectarian 17th century into the secular 20th until the 1990s – that’s eight decades, Padraic, lost to your delusions ‘of sanctity, of catholicity, of apostolic succession’. But now it very enthusiastically has, and latest statistics show that weekly church attendance is now at the levels seen in other English-speaking countries. And, very surprisingly (and quite ironically), the percentage of citizens of the Republic for whom an Island-of-Ireland union is ‘very important’ is the lowest it has ever been and, even more surprisingly and ironically, that also applies to Northern Ireland’s Catholics / Nationalists. But – perhaps not at all ‘surprisingly’, given the general common sense and very healthy skepticism of the Irish people.

^ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/dont-romanticise-irelands-bloodstained-legend-of-easter-1916/news-story/8aa2ffb2021562b54001fdcdf916984d – an outsider’s look at 1916.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Robin Charles Halton

    April 4, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Leonard #17 The Editor has dismissed our Irishness or interest in the subject, which ever applies seeing its not worth the time to allow further comments, as we have been pushed down into the boondocks to put up with lesser articles that pad the TT line network.

    With Anzac Day coming up soon the link may be revived if a good article can be created.

    My own part Irishness for which I find hard to fully follow through time has still not been reckoned with.

    You wont believe this but I can claim a Bridget O’Farrell on the Halton side of the family here in Hobart would be my great grandmother.

    Its entirely another story but it clearly a good reason to visit to the Emerald Isle and experience a home coming of sorts.

    There is unfinished business to be reckoned with, it should be solved instead of living with riddles and dead ends.

    Cheers and a pint of Guinness for all followers of progressive Ireland.

    Ed: There is never dismissal on little tassietimes … simply go to the bottom of column 2 and click on: ‘Click to Page 2, 3, 4, 5 … The Rest’. There you will find whatever article you wish to comment on …

  2. Leonard Colquhoun

    April 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    My last major addition to this topic, pointing out a feature of Irish nationalism which has to be unique in the universe of national liberation movements – football.

    As in Gaelic football, of course, but also, in a reverse way, of Association football (colloquially called ‘soccer’ here in Australia). Gaelic football was one of the major indigenous sports of Gaelic Ireland promoted by the Gaelic Athletic Association (Cumann Lúthchleas Gael), which was not just about sport, nor just about Gaelic football & hurling, making the GAA unique in the world.

    It is an amateur sporting & cultural organisation focused primarily on promoting Gaelic games, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling (think US ice hockey on grass), Gaelic football, handball (think of squash where your hand is your racket) and rounders (16th century baseball). The GAA also promotes Irish music & dance, and the Irish language – a broad range of activities way beyond the range of our sporting organisations.

    Gaelic football & hurling are the most popular GAA sports, and the most highly attended sports in Ireland. Interestingly, Gaelic football is also the largest participation sport in the continuing UK province of Northern Ireland, despite the heavy cultural influence of soccer and rugby from the British mainland.

    On 1 November 1884, the “Gaelic Athletic Association for the Cultivation and Preservation of National Pastimes” was founded by Michael Cusack, a Dublin civil servant troubled by falling standards in traditional Irish games and by the growing influence of the ‘garrison games’ played by soldiers, police and officials of the British administration. Within a few weeks, Thomas Croke, archbishop of Munster, became its first patron, introducing the rules which forbade members of the GAA from playing foreign games such as tennis, cricket, polo, and rugby.

    Over the next few years the GAA’s informal arrangements evolved into All-Ireland championships in Gaelic football & hurling. At first, most of its members were rural labourers, small farmers, barmen or shop assistants, but from 1900 the GAA attracted clerks, school teachers or civil servants, strongly influenced by the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), which was founded in Dublin in 1893 by Douglas Hyde, the son – rather ironically – of a Church of Ireland, i.e., Anglican, cleric. (He later became the first president of Ireland.).

    Both the GAA and the Gaelic League were attracted to the strengthening nationalist movement towards Home Rule (self-government within the Empire), if not complete independence. GAA clubs became centres for nationalism and of resistance to British rule, particularly after the 1916 Easter Rising and during the War of Independence, leading inexorably to the Croke Park Massacre.

    Reminder: the GAA is an amateur organisation – unlike our professionals, its players have to get up on Mondays for real work. It sees itself as a fighter for & preserver of Irish culture, and now its custodian & guardian in the broader sense. Readers will easily see why the Irish don’t have cultural cringers who diss their games of their own, or have to defend their code of football from attacks from fellow citizens spruiking foreign codes and globalised balls.

    Recently, the GAA lifted the ban on ‘garrison games’ and its 80,000 Croke Park showpiece has hosted Irish international rugby and soccer matches. Ireland and Australia share the distinction of being the world’s most football diverse nations.

    But, no, there is no evidence at all that Gaelic football played any part in the evolution of our own code of Foot Ball; looks like a case of convergent evolution. But there are enough similarities for these two indigenous games to play a series of hybrid games against each other – with the Foot Ball gods still undecided about them.

  3. Robin Charles Halton

    April 1, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Leonard you have deserted your post. From what I can recall Brendon Behan, at the time 1950’s till his death in 1964 due to serial alcoholism was greatly revered and mimed by the recent immigrants at the time.

    The followers of balladist and member of Fianna Eireann thrived in his glory with some of his famous cliches.

    One drink is too many for me and a thousand is not enough.

    I am a drinker with a writer problem.

    Smoking, drinking, gambling in race horses, marriages to unfortunate women and a wasted life.
    I recall one of my babysitters who was quite talented from a good family marrying one of these wastrels.

  4. Robin Charles Halton

    March 30, 2016 at 1:08 am

    #14, The stark facts are that Ireland president Mickey Higgins has staged a major military show for Easter Monday in the streets of Dublin.
    Wow, that must have been one of ethnic sensitivity, a risk in a sense, but hopefully the population will absorb it and manage to move on into peace.

    Sinn Fein and other dissents staged their own marches as a part of their individualistic cultural and political aspirations to commemorate the fallen of the Easter Rising.

    Despite Sinn Fein the political arm of the IRA under Gerry Adams it is well represented in the power sharing Irish Parliament which is probably a healthy thing as there are still aspirations for a United Ireland without bloodshed.

    My entire understandings about the Catholic Church under the Irish rule and unforgiving manner in which they ran the church and conducted education in Australia turned me into a rebel to be dealt with at age 12.
    Damn the church and their teachings.
    These days we only go to church for funerals and an occasional marriage and that is it.

  5. Leonard Colquhoun

    March 27, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Very interesting selection of Irish attitudes to Easter 1916 in 12’s Guardian article. If many of us are ambivalent towards defining moments of our history, then ambivalence-in-spades is what is reported here.

    AND NOTE: there nothing wrong in itself with such ambivalence – it is the recognition and acceptance of that humano-normative situation of species-wide variety and individual difference. Only totalitarian regimes (whether ideological as in Nazism and Marxism, or religionist, as in mediaeval Christianity or current Islamism), and doctrinaire attitudes (as in some political parties and movements) reject and abhor such a spectrum.

    In 99% of such situations, a ‘broad church’ attitude is healthier, safer and more evolutionarily intelligent. ‘Nature’ frends mongrels and unfrends pure-breds.

  6. Robin Charles Halton

    March 27, 2016 at 11:45 am

    There was no logical reason for the Irish revolutionaries to create chaos in Dublin during the middle of WWI, a totally inexcusable act of potential genocide for the UK.

    The message in Northern Europe and for the UK was clear, the Germans had to be defeated at all costs before they overran the entire European continent.

    Before the assault of Easter rebellion in 1916, major battles had been fought on the continent, Ypres,Jutland,Verdun, and the Somme offensive was well underway.

    What was the point of the Irish trying to make a statement in such a ridiculous manner at this point in time when it resulted in unnecessary brutality and no peace in sight!

    My praise for those disaffected Irish males who actually joined the British forces to fight the Huns on the continent, this strategy would have been a far better bargaining chip for bringing about a more satisfactory solution in Ireland.

    Ah no, hostilities dragged on into modern and more “civilised” times, although the British were cruel towards the Irish throughout, it seemed as the Irish could not be trusted to officiate a peaceful solution under Jerry Adams.

  7. Leonard Colquhoun

    March 26, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Or, young Halton Craven ‘A’.

  8. Robin Charles Halton

    March 26, 2016 at 2:47 am

    #8 Pat Caplice, perhaps it was fortunate I was not up to altar boy standards, Fr Murphy who died in 1987 disliked me when he found out I never declared the full amount on the Sunday Mass plate, my parents gave me 2/-, the church got 6d and I took 1/6d for my weekly issue of pkt of 20 cork tip cigarettes, usually US branded Phillip Morris or Lucky Strike none of that cheap Aus. crap Turf or Capstan.

  9. Leonard Colquhoun

    March 25, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    About “And two Briscoes, father Robert (1956) and son Ben (1988) were Lord Mayors of Dublin” – some readers may be doing a Manuel (of Fawlty Towers) “¿Que?”

    Meant to point out that they were Jewish.

    One very interesting – and perhaps unique – feature of Irish nationalism was the role sport played. Google [Gaelic Athletic Association] and [garrison games].

    BTW, Australia shares with the US, Canada and Ireland the almost unique distinction of having its own ‘native’ version of Foot Ball, but (somewhat sadly,) we seem to have the fully unique distinction of having lots of us sneering at it for that very feature. Often wonder whether those who urge a distinctly Australian flag on us, and campaign for an Australian Head of State, are the same as those who urge us to play with soccer’s globalised balls because our code is just so ‘parochial’.

  10. Pat Caplice

    March 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    # 5 Robin
    A less than adequate description of Fr Peter Murphy, a man who may not have enjoyed the current Royal Commission.

  11. Cameron Hindrum

    March 25, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you Leonard. I’ve recently read of the hanging for treason of Sir Roger Casement, famously ‘hanged by a comma’ according to legal legend. His crime was attempting to import 20,000 weapons into Ireland from Germany during World War One and his trial was something of a miscarriage of justice.

    Of course, religion continues to mess things up. You need look no further than Facebook pages like that of Family Voice Australia, using Christianity as a cover to vilify homosexuals and the Safe Schools program and in doing so reinforcing just how hypocritical it’s possible for some who espouse “religion” to be.

    I’m also reading about Bloody Sunday at the moment. The British military have a few very inconvenient questions to answer over that little exercise.

  12. Leonard Colquhoun

    March 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Yes, Gary, some history is “perhaps beyond forgetting” – but that depends on how the “not forgetting” is practised. Seems to me that the saying “That was then, this is now” should be interpreted as ‘Yes, that was “then” and it was an appallingly brutal and unjust time, but we are not living in that “then”, but in our own “now”, and we have to live our lives with that at the forefront’.

    Again, W B Yeats put it very well: “Too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart”.

    After Partition, there were no (official, organised) pogroms against Protestants south of the Border. Douglas Hyde, who founded the Gaelic League and was a driving force in reviving the Gaelic language, was the first president of Ireland.

    He was also a Protestant. Not an appointment which would have been made by a clerico-fascist government like Spain’s Francoist regime. Comment 5’s Father Peter Ryan was the norm, not the exception.

    And two Briscoes, father Robert (1956) and son Ben (1988) were Lord Mayors of Dublin.

  13. Robin Charles Halton

    March 25, 2016 at 2:59 am

    My grandfather from Tyenna was earlier last century was a member of the Hibernian Society attachment in the Derwent Valley.

    Dad cultivated the Irish who immigrated to this part of the world.
    I did not find much joy in his association as they claimed to be Catholic first but mainly lived in a family situation with their lives disrupted by drink, smoking, gambling and wasted lives, most ended up penniless and completely blarney as they approached their Heavenly father..

    I can recall one exception, a Father Peter Ryan who was sent from Eire to take over St Peters Parish for 2 years in the early 1960’s while the grumpy old bastard Fr Peter Murphy visited his home country for the last time.

    Fr Ryan changed the Protestant Catholic divide forever in the Derwent Valley befriending many non Catholics families, including Church of England minister at St Mathews.
    He was a regular at the Bush Inn, the Eagles Club Rooms, played golf, and a great socialiser within our community whether we went to Mass or not, he was welcomed into many homes including our place for meals and enjoyed few beers with Dad and his WWI and WWII mates at the local RSL.

    To be honest I have never yearned for the Irish as I lack the inner Fenian spirit which was obviously lost in my generation despite having been gifted as a teenager with a copy of Speeches from the Docks by Sean ua Ceallaigh which I have read on a number of occasions over the years.

    I may never visit the Emerald Isle as I am now well beyond the calamities of the traditional cross county Irish pub crawl.

  14. Garry Stannus

    March 24, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you, Leonard. Your pen always has an incisive – if not sharp! – edge to it, yet it is informative, as Peter (#1) writes and usually … challenging. You often extend my thought/knowledge on the subject of the modern education system, history and language and often I am impelled to resist some of your pithier remarks, yet battle with myself over my would-be objections. Your suggestions usually win out and I silently refrain from the fray and wish you good luck.

    As it happens, my wife Marie is from the Young Islander stock …i.e., Hugh Brophy, who was arrested along with Stevens, Kickham and Duffy and sent out to W.A. Just last weekend or so we were in Westbury which has a Festival recognising the Irish heritage in that town. This last Monday, if I am informed corrrectly, the 21st March, was the anniversary of the death of John Mitchell, one of the earlier patriots. Sentenced to exile in Tasmania, he renounced his parole and escaped to America, at one time being sheltered in Westbury, and escaping in clerical garb which I think were given to him by the priest, Father Hogan. I just came across an interesting account of Mitchell’s story here: http://www.telelib.com/authors/C/ClarkeMarcus/prose/OldTales/johnmitchel.html.

    Leonard’s ‘about-to-become-a Dominion’ thesis, is interesting, but I would need quite a bit of convincing before I’d be willing to accept it. The Famine, what went before it (e.g. the Plantation) and what has followed since, are perhaps beyond forgetting. I’m tempted to make some remarks on the music of Ireland, on its dance and its literature, but maybe another time would be more appropriate. Happy Easter everyone.

  15. Anne Cadwallader

    March 24, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Terrific and lively summary of such complex times. I thought I knew this history, but you took it deeper still – especially that odd time warp that settled over the nation until modern times – for better, and worse. Thankyou Leonard.

  16. Pat Caplice

    March 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Well said.

  17. peter adams

    March 24, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for this bit of informative writing. Always worthwhile to understand how religious beliefs can mess things up.

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