17 April 2006

Most authentic claimants to Rising legacy are RSF

Newshound

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(Eamonn McCann, Sunday Journal)

In his brilliant book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, script-writer William Goldman (All the President's Men, Butch Cassidy etc.) observed that the best way to survive in Hollywood is to operate on the assumption that, "Nobody knows anything."

Begin to believe that somebody knows what the Next Big Thing will be, and you'll end up bankrupt.

Similarly, the safest position to adopt as we gaze on the mixum-gatherum of the great and the good assembled on the reviewing stand in O'Connell Street (just along the road from McDonald's, facing Ann Summers' Sex Shop) is that nobody believes anything. Or, alternatively, that everybody believes everything.

Maybe Mary McAleese genuinely believes that the men and women of Easter Week died that the Celtic Tiger might live.

Maybe Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny are honestly convinced that Pearse, Connolly etc. were expressing fellow feeling and a sense of solidarity with Irish soldiers of the British Army being flung to their death along the Somme.

Perhaps Mark Durkan and Gerry Adams are sincerely convinced that Tom Clarke died dreaming of power-sharing in a Six County parliament within the United Kingdom.

An argument can be made for any of these propositions. Nobody knew in 1916 what the world would look like 90 years later or how Ireland might fit within it. People say of 1916 what suits their present-day politics.

It would even be possible for advocates of a Catholic State for a Catholic people to assert their claim to the Easter tradition. The fact that they don't draw this argument out says something about the decline of their self-confidence. There was far more religious fervour in the GPO than any of the special supplements or feature pieces I've read has acknowledged. Throughout the fighting, on the roof of the GPO, the rosary was recited at half-hourly intervals. I havn't seen this mentioned anywhere in the past week.

My own view is that, as far as Republicanism is concerned, the most authentic claimants to the political legacy of the Rising are Ruairi O Bradaigh and Republican Sinn Féin.

The Proclamation didn't promise a fight to achieve the Republic. It proclaimed the Republic as an actually-existing entity. It is for this reason that IRA volunteers ever since have pledged not to strive for the achievement of the Republic but to defend the Republic already achieved. In this perspective, a deal which others might see as a step towards the ultimate objective will be seen as contemptible retreat from the struggle.

In detaching himself from the Provisionals in 1986 because they'd accepted the legitimacy of the Leinster House parliament, O Bradaigh stood by the Republic established on Easter Monday. Looked at from this angle – as legitimate an angle as any other – there is no question: Mr. O Bradaigh and his followers stand alone in true succession to Easter Week.

Those of us who stand rights outside the Republican tradition and who take a socialist view also see Easter Week in the perspective of our own politics, see its enduring legacy in the fact that it was a blow against the most powerful Empire on earth at the time, and regard it as self-evident that its spirit is best represented today in the fight against the imperial power of the US ruling class.

In this view, the most egregious betrayal of 1916 lies not in grudgingly taking seats in a partitionist parliament but in cheerfully breaking bread with George W. Bush.

The most fitting symbol of the Rising is not the Easter Lily but the Black Shamrock.

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Uefa has a point in passing the buck about sectarianism in Scottish football back to SFA and the Scottish Executive.

Outlining the reasons for its decision on Wednesday to acquit Rangers supporters of bigoted chanting at both legs of the Champions League tie against Villarreal, Uefa said it felt unable to take action over "a historical issue in Scotland."

The charge had referred to the singing of The Billy Boys. Said Uefa: "Supporters have been singing the song Billy Boys for years ... without either the Scottish football or governmental authorities being able to intervene. This result is that this song is now somehow tolerated."

Which was spot on. The authorities in Scotland have for years accepted the mass singing of a fascist anthem at sporting occasions, and it's they who must deal with it now.

I use the word "fascist" not as a generalised insult but as a factual observation. Billy Boys was the marching song of a "razor gang" based in Bridgtown in Glasgow in the late 1920s and '30s, led by one Billy Fullerton. He wasn't a run-of-the-mill anti-Catholic bigot but a committed supporter of Oswald Mosely's British Union of Fascists. The targets of his gang were not only Catholics but "Reds": they helped smash up trade union and labour meetings when they weren't hunting "Fenians." This was one of the reasons they were tolerated by a "respectable" element which combined distaste for Irish Catholics with fear of Scottish socialists, particularly in the aftermath of "Red Clydeside." This was the context for the tolerance of the song which Uefa found disturbing.

There is sectarianism in Celtic's support, too, no shortage of yahoos who think themselves licensed to celebrate the Shankill bombers for having killed "huns" just as their rivals celebrate the Shankill butchers for killing "taigs.". But it's cowardly to suggest that "one side's as bad as the other." There isn't a song remotely as disgusting as Billy Boys, or as rooted in political evil, on the Celtic side.

What will the SFA do now? If precedent is followed, SFA.

But maybe the international embarrassment of last week will prompt action.

We shall see.

April 17, 2006
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This article appeared in the April 16, 2006 edition of the Sunday Journal.

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