April 24, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
No man, no woman, no child is free as their god intended if their history, their inheritance, their rightful destiny are lassoed by another master. That was the Irish in the British occupation from the 12th century, in the 1800 Act of Union that merged the nation with Great Britain, in the great sadness and death of the 1916 Easter Rising 100 years ago today.
The heavens have granted gifts to the Irish in their innate love of literature, in their poetic expression, in their ability to see humor even as their wit tells truths that bite the soul. A smile for every tear.
There is loss in every Irish family today, as in generations before. The bagpipes never play just in the gaiety of a wedding but are a constant funeral dirge for those lost in oppression forever-long after.
In just three weeks’ time, it will have been an exact century, on May 15, when leaders of the Easter Rising were executed. More than 3,000 suspected of participating in the rebellion were arrested, many sent to England and prison without trial. Such punishment ended Irish complacency, led to the Irish Parliament of January 1919 in Dublin and the declaration of Ireland’s independence. More rebellion followed, there was a 1921 cease-fire, and the Irish Free State, a self-governing nation of the British Commonwealth was established.
The fully independent Republic of Ireland, the 26 counties in the south and west, was formally established on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949. Ireland’s six northern counties, including the Protestants populated by the British, opted out of the Free State and remained with the United Kingdom. The partition still smarts.
History can offer the whys and wherefores of occupation of one land by another but can never justify suppression of the natural being of a certain people. We Americans tried that in our shameful treatment of the only people who do not need a Green Card, the Native Americans. You can argue that no manifest destiny, no birth and progress of the great American republic, would have happened without supression, yet however you rationalize it, a debt is still due those original Americans who languish on sub-standard reservations.
The Irish stood up — initially just some of them but then a majority of the people — in a courageous act of rebellion 100 years ago today, and families were immediately torn asunder. Some will never forget, never forgive. Debts are still to be paid for forced assimilation, even if it did not work.
What can be said today as the unfinished story continues is “sláinte” (good health) to the Irish in the name of humanity and in the name of my mother, an Irish lass.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org