I was sickened tonight as I watched Eoghan Harris on a Prime Time debate compare the dead of the Easter 1916 Rising to Muslim suicide bombers. Yes, that's right, he said that one day he could see Muslim extremists in Ireland justifying the action of suicide bombers by pointing to 1916 and saying since those people knew they would die then its ok to be a suicide bomber. He knew exactly what he was saying because he repeated it, twice, at the end of the show much to the disgust of all the other members of the panel. He thought he was great, on national TV insulting the history of the nation and having the last word.
Most nations have a history of violence in their foundation. They are not ashamed of their dead, they don't ignore the sacrifices of their forefathers and they do not hand their tradition and history to militant extremists and criminals the way we in Ireland do. Sinn Fein do not represent the men who fought in the GPO 90 years ago, nor for that matter do Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or any of the modern political parties. Sinn Fein have taken over the event and driven ordinary Irish citizens away from it, making people ashamed of their history.
The Easter 1916 Rising was a military expression of the ideal of freedom, by idealists who knew they would loose the battle but hoped they would win the war. They were not suicidal killers. They did not walk into bars or restaurants and kill innocent civilians. They did not kill innocent people based on religion. They did not hit from a distance and run away. Instead they stood up in the center of the second city of the British Empire and declared their desire for the freedom of their people. They then stayed where they were and awaited the military reaction of that Empire, knowing they lacked any real hope for success but willing to face death if it would help secure a future for their nation. Did the men of, for example, the Alamo do any less?
For Harris to compare Easter 1916 to suicide bombings is to insult every citizen of Ireland who is proud of their nation and its role in the world of 2006. We must learn to separate the heroes of the past from the villains of the present. The volunteers of 1916 were not terrorists. Sure they were poorly trained, poorly armed and poorly led, but they were uniformed soldiers in entrenched positions fighting other uniformed soldiers. The 90 years since then may have seen the rise of terrorism, but 1916 was not a terrorist strike.
Sinn Fein and co may have driven people like me away from the GPO at Easter for years, but now that we have an official government organised commeration this year Eoghan Harris wont scare me away.