Empires do not become empires by being nice or honourable or generous.
Another feature of successful empires is a reluctance to give up the territories that they have previously “acquired”.
There is a point in the life cycle of an empire when they look invincible.
So it must have been in the late 19th century for those who lived within the British Empire.
To oppose such an empire was madness be you a Zulu, Arab or Irish.
Today all is different.
Britain is an unreliable functionary within the US imperium.
We Irish today have self-government over most of the island.
The break with Britain, when it came, had to be a rupture, final and irreversible.
That meant striking at Britain by revolutionary means.
Just as the European colonists in Britain’s American settlements decided to secede in the most final way-by war.
The leaders of the Irish revolution knew their enemy well enough to distrust Perfidious Albion. The British had promised Home Rule to the Irish.
Even if they had been good to their word-a major “if”- real power would have remained in London.
The plotters of 1916 had to strike at British rule in Ireland in a way that would mean that the moderate pro Home Rule Irish Parliamentary Party led by John Redmond would be finished in the new post-Rising reality.
After the Rising Redmond was finished.
Sinn Fein was ascendant.
Even empires do not like fighting several wars at the same time.
The revolutionaries of 1916 got their timing right.
Britain-invincible for a century-suddenly was in a death match with industrial Germany. This wasn’t swatting some “fuzz wuzzies” in the Sudan. Decent sport for a fine young chap like Winston Churchill at Omdurman in 1898. This was the real deal. Britain would, ultimately triumph only with the assistance of the Americans.
The “Great War” put Britain into serious debt as they borrowed from the world’s biggest economy.
By the time Churchill was running the Admiralty and planning Gallipoli it was clear that Britain was no longer the unipolar power on the planet. In Ireland the end of London state’s hegemony over this entire archipelago was being planned a new generation of Irish rebels.
Connolly was sure that week end at St.Enda’s that it was time for the rebel forces to combine to strike for Ireland.
Their example would be applauded and replicated across the empire for the next generation freeing India and much of sub-saharan Africa from British rule.
The Irish nation was re-born on Easter Monday 1916. Pearse read the proclamation that he and James Connolly had drafted. The Irishman from Edinburgh knew that the newly independent Ireland that HE wanted wouldn’t be worth breaking a window over if the poor remained oppressed. All that would be achieved then-in Connolly’s words-“ would be the accents of the powerful”.
Last week in Dail Eireann the powerful gave the Irish people the bill for the Celtic Tiger years.
People that never enjoyed the billionaire lifestyle will now have to pay for the roulette wheel economic policies of those years.
The arithmetic of “NAMA” is brain numbing.
As it stands my children’s children are in their fifties they will still be paying for the insane relationship between the banks and well connected property developers.
Today the politicians who presided over this toxic mix of graft and incompetence re-affirmed themselves to the ideals of the men and women of 1916.
They had the best seats at the commemoration of the Rising at the GPO in Dublin.
It would appear that to be a successful politician there should be no sense of shame or embarrassment.
James Connolly fought a polemical and ideological battle with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the local capitalist class.
Today the 21st century equivalents of Bishop Walsh and media baron William Martin Murphy continue to bleed money form the poorest in this society.
The Irish state has indemnified the Catholic Church from legal costs in abuse cases and, of course, last week gave two generations of Irish people with the bill for the bank’s decade of madness.
Connolly’s revolution is yet to be completed. The poor people of Ireland still don’t have their country. Until the ordinary people of Ireland really matter then the revolution started at the GPO at Easter 1916 remains a struggle in progress. Without that material reality Pearce’s imagery is just so much mist in the Celtic twilight.
Connolly told his daughter Nora when she last saw him in his prison cell that “We shall rise again!”
History never repeats itself identically.
However the people of this country need to mobilise again.
Ireland’s 21st century Rising will be a peaceful democratic rebellion on the streets and in the polling stations.
The colonial British are no longer the enemy, but an Irish political class that doesn’t haven’t a clue why Connolly went out to be slaughtered.
We need to rise again.