The Rising – Ireland: Easter 1916 by Fearghal McGarry - review by Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

‘Ireland Sober Is Ireland Free!’

The Rising – Ireland: Easter 1916

By

Oxford University Press 365pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Speaking recently to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic Brian Cowen invoked ‘the spirit of 1916’, urging businessmen to help the country through the present economic gloom. The ‘spirit of 1916’ – being the founding myth of the Irish state – is often invoked in Ireland to prompt sacrifice, patriotism and an idealistic attitude of putting country and nation before one’s own selfish wants. Founding national myths, however, are deconstructed, revised and reconstructed over time, and 1916 has been through much questioning and revisionism in my own lifetime. For the fiftieth anniversary in 1966, the Easter Rising was celebrated with passionate and unambivalent patriotism – fierce nationalism, indeed. I still possess some memorabilia from that year and it is almost guileless in its adulation of the 1916 leaders, the poets, mystics and dreamers who believed that they were going straight to heaven after their executions. If there are some uncomfortable parallels with al-Qaeda today, Fearghal McGarry does not fail to note them in this remarkably diligent, fair and engrossing new history. Yet the parallel is limited: Patrick Pearse and his fellow insurrectionists became troubled about the loss of innocent life and called a

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