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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Time for our young to forget the slogans of the civil war

Many people argue that 1848 was the worst year in Irish history. That was about the time when the Famine reached its peak.

Others argue that 1922 was a worse year. That was the year of the Civil War. How it began isn't clear but the shelling of the Four Courts is probably the marking point. Those who didn't agree with The Treaty had taken it over. And the army shelled it.

Many people in later years tried to be disassociated with this act. Tom Barry was among those. He would like it to be believed that he had no part in the Civil War. However, he was apprehended in attempting to go into the Four Courts disguised as a woman. He was "interned" but managed to get down to West Cork where he met his old brigade. They launched an attack on Rosscarberry Barracks.

Starve

It was a pathetic failure, so much so that Barry became convinced that he hadn't the men or the armament to launch a new campaign. And so he retired quietly and, though officially on the run, he got a job as a civil servant in the Harbour Commissioners and seemingly he took no further act in politics.

The men associated with the start of the Civil War are Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows and Liam Lynch. In the public image it was really a war between Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins. Humphrey Murphy, a man I came to know in later years, was the fieriest of all the rebels. He said: "In every town where we have a garrison, we will hold on to it even though it means that the people will starve." Amazingly while the first two names were executed, Liam Lynch wasn't. In fact he probably would have been but he was wounded in a fracas in an attempt to capture him and he died in hospital.

Eamon de Valera had sufficient prestige to prevent the Civil War. Instead he fomented it. In the autumn of that year, he and Frank Aiken called for an end to the struggle. They said "dump all arms." That was rather dishonest: they had little arms to dump.

My father, God rest him, finished with a flying column and all he had was an ancient rifle that was probably as much danger to himself as to the enemy. Civil war, in fact, didn't end in 1922. It is still going on.

There are still people who believe in a mystical entity called The Republic. If you asked any of them to define the word, they would be at a loss. They might claim that it meant a United Ireland. A republic, however, should be a democracy. An Ireland united would not be such because the southern state has for long been ruled in part by the Catholic church. That wouldn't be agreeable to Northern Protestants.

When Patrick Pearse and his colleagues took over the GPO, for what were they fighting? The land had been won: that was a step forward of which nobody had dreamed 50 years before. Agriculture was making progress.

The trade unions were beginning to have an effect on the appalling conditions of the working class. Certainly the will of the people wasn't behind the Rising but when some of the leaders were executed, the mood changed.

Executions

Of course the army are the real government in times of war. And the leaders of armies have never been noted for intelligence. The executions ended because the British public, well informed by good journalists, would take no more.

The Civil War, however, lingered on and it led to a bitter division as was seen by the emergence of two parties -- Fianna Fail and Cumann na nGael. Fianna Fail took over in the early 1930s and, but for brief intermissions, were in power until a year or so ago. They left the country burdened with an enormous debt. They were guilty of two shameless and shameful attempts to overthrow proportional representation (PR).

This would have left Fianna Fail in power for a very long time more. It would have led to a diminished Labour Party holding only two or three seats. This would have caused endless industrial turmoil.

The State would have suffered socially and economically. Indeed we could have seen a real revolution. The two attempts were voted out. Fianna Fail continued in power and they abused this right so grossly that eventually they were voted out ignominiously.

Who will succeed them? Never was the country in such a malleable state. A great deal depends on the young people but many of them have been turned away from politics by the years of corruption and double dealing.

The most important education that our young should get would be an understanding of politics and economics. The study of those two sciences should be obligatory in the primary schools. Life goes on and the rejection of the No vote in the recent referendum is a sign for hope. We would have no future outside the European Union.

An educated young public could be a new element in our politics, people who wouldn't be brainwashed by slogans or by catchphrases that remain since the Civil War.

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