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.

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No Plaster Saint

Theo Dorgan
From time to time, in our endless worrying-over of the 1916 Rising, the question is raised: why did James Connolly ally himself and the Irish Citizen Army with the armed forces of insurrectionary nationalism? This is, I think, a faux-naif question, the proposition that he was wrong following hard on its heels, and it is rarely posed in a disinterested manner. To the extent that nationalism in the twenty-first century is often considered to be uninformed by analysis and indeed little more than the expression of unthinking, ahistorical, sectarian prejudice, the question, when put at all, often masks an unexamined assumption that in one way or another Connolly was wrong. There is, of course, a short factual answer, and it goes something like this: the continental war had fully engaged the armed forces of Britain to the extent that the Irish Republican Brotherhood, inheritors of the Fenian physical force tradition, came to the conclusion that a tactical opportunity had arisen to strike for independence under arms. Acting through the Irish Volunteers, the IRB had set in train a process that would culminate in a rising. Connolly had been taken into their confidence by leading elements of the IRB, was aware that a rising was planned and was faced in the run-up to Easter week with a dilemma: commit the Citizen Army to joint action with the volunteers, or stand aside and allow an armed nationalist uprising to go ahead without him and without the backing of the trades union movement that was the ultimate guarantor of the Citizen Army. Left commentators of the past forty years have implicitly and explicitly criticised Connolly’s decision by saying that he abandoned the principled politics of a workers’ revolutionary movement by mistakenly allying himself with a nationalist uprising that was devoid of ideological content. These commentators would go further, perhaps, and claim that by subsuming the ICA inside the larger nationalist project Connolly was also opening the door to the negation of progressive politics inside the bigger, inchoate and diffuse national movement that would receive its impetus from the rising. This judgement has gained traction over the past few decades as an implicit element in certain critiques of the Provisional Republican movement, but while it is perfectly legitimate to criticise a contemporary political movement for its actual or perceived ideological poverty or even, from the left, lack of a coherent revolutionary strategy, it is…



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