I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Commemorating what? And why?

Commemorating what? And why?

Padraig Yeates
My father joined the British army in January 1941 to escape unemployment in Dublin and see the world. They sent him to Omagh. On March 17th, 1941 he was deployed with his comrades on the streets of this little Tyrone town with a loaded rifle in his hands and the prospect, for the first time in his life, of having to shoot someone. He was acting in aid of the civil power, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to ensure that any attempt by the nationalist population to stage a St Patrick’s Day Parade would be suppressed. At Easter he was deployed again. This time it was to ensure there was no attempt to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1916 Rising, which was of course being celebrated simultaneously by the national army on the streets of Dublin a little over a hundred miles down the road. I cite this bit of family history to show that commemoration can mean different things to different people and can even mean different things to the same people, depending on small but important details such as location and terms of employment. I am old enough to remember the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966, which had a significant impact on me as a young member of the Republican movement. It was a year that saw a revival of interest in the writings of James Connolly. Their publication influenced not just a younger generation of republicans, but trade unionists, Labour Party activists and people on the left generally. This renewed interest was not always welcome. Éamonn Mac Thomáis, a leading member of Sinn Féin at the time, hung a banner on the party’s headquarters at 30 Gardiner Place, Dublin, to remind younger members where their true allegiance lay. It bore the legend: “We Serve Neither Queen nor Kremlin”, invoking the memory of Connolly’s banner on Liberty Hall fifty years earlier that proclaimed “We serve Neither King nor Kaiser”. To be honest some of us were neutral on the side of the Kremlin in 1966, just as Connolly had been neutral on the side of the Kaiser in 1916. Whatever thoughts Éamonn hoped to inspire in those of us in danger of being seduced by communism he certainly inspired a café proprietor down the road to put up another banner announcing “We Serve Hot Soup”. We should never underestimate the power of the commercial imperative…

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