Easter is a time of reflection for nationalists. The Rising is naturally at the front of the nationalist’s mind. It was a rebellion quite unlike any other, infused with a deep spirituality and religiosity. This is perhaps because the rebellion was to function much like the religious holiday on which it transpired. It was a nationalism that transcended the trappings of ideology and which struck to the heart of the Irish nation that led to that Rising.
Pearse conceived of the nation as a spiritual thing, the spirit of which is expressed primarily in the language of the people, but reveals itself also “in all the arts, all the institutions, all the inner life, all the actions and goings forth of the nation.” Pearse believed that a nation, much like a man, has a soul. And much like the martyrdom of Christ would redeem humanity, Pearse believed that the martyrdom that was to take place would free Ireland – not just in the legal or material sense, but that the soul of Ireland, the Gaelic spirit, would finally be freed.
The death and resurrection of Christ is of course central to the Christian tradition, but it is also central to Ireland’s nationalist tradition: “Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations.” It was the belief that by their sacrifice and from their graves Ireland would be redeemed and reborn anew that led men to take up arms that Eastertide.
That duality between the Rising of Christ and the Easter Rising strikes a touching chord. The same themes of redemption, self-sacrifice, blood sacrifice, and the redemption of the soul are contained in both tales. As the Christian tradition followed the Rising of Christ, the great Gaelic tradition would have followed the Easter Rising – but it is evident enough by now that such a tradition failed to materialise. The civil war certainly destroyed any hope of it arising, were it possible at all. It is from this Easter sacrifice and that, as of yet, unrealised vision of a free and Gaelic Ireland that the National Party draws its ideology, its spirit, and its resolve.
Maintaining the theme of duality, the spirit of Ireland before the Rising and today are remarkably similar. In ‘Ghosts’ Pearse castigates the previous generation: “The men who have led Ireland for the past twenty-five years have done evil, and they are bankrupt. They are bankrupt in policy, bankrupt in credit, bankrupt now even in words. They have nothing to propose to Ireland, no way of wisdom, no counsel of courage. When they speak they speak only untruth and blasphemy.”
Not one piece of Ireland today is free. Not one town or city, not one county or province, and not North or South is free. Whether under the reign of Britain or Brussels Ireland has no unfettered control over her own destiny. That previous generation, those bankrupt leaders, were perhaps the worst of what Ireland has had to offer. Not since Diarmait Mac Murchada has Ireland’s freedom been so terribly betrayed. Neither of the two conditions stated at the Graveside Panegyric are fulfilled. Ireland is neither free, nor is she Gaelic. Indeed, she is arguably less Gaelic than ever before and less free than she was half a century ago. The nation is moribund once again as yet another Rising looms.
It is just over a century since the undertaking of the Rising and in its wake comes its distorted and parodic mirror image. If 1916 was the Rising of Gaelic Ireland, 2018 is the Rising of Modern Ireland. The same themes are again present but inverted or perverted in some manner.Courage, heroism, and self-sacrifice become selfishness, hedonism, and cowardice; death and rebirth are twisted into death before birth; and the blood sacrifice that lit a flame in the hearts of the younger generations is perverted into the blood sacrifice of those younger generations. The men of 1916 gave everything for the sake of Ireland and her future generations, but the men of 2018 would butcher Ireland and her future generations for the sake of themselves.This upcoming referendum on abortion will be a pivotal and defining moment in Ireland. Whatever the result of the referendum, whether yes or no, it will be a watershed moment in our history.
For Ireland’s sake may we hope that good will triumph.
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