On the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising it is worth reflecting on what has happened since then and the aspirations of the proclamation to guarantee equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens and cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.
The Rising itself was doomed to failure from the start but as with life itself often the most unpredictable and unexpected things happen because despite the lack of initial public support, after the executions sympathies swung the other way and as they say the rest was history and the ripples spread out, because it has been said the fight for independence of India was inspired by the Irish Rising.
It is hard to imagine the context of events at that time because the empire probably seemed so permanent, the poverty of the Irish, great. Perhaps one of the biggest ironies must be that so few were involved in the Rising yet when World War I broke out in 1914 over 200,000 Irish men fought for the British Empire with, depending on how the counting is done, anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 died. Granted many who fought for the British were basically economic conscripts.
The anniversary must be tinged with a tiny bit of regret for Sinn Féin because in 1918 they formed the first government of "Dáil Éireann", having won most of the seats in the Irish General Election of 1918, then refusing to attend Parliament in Westminster and instead forming a revolutionary parliament in Dublin and now one hundred years later they have come as close as ever to being part of the Irish government again but not quite.
The text of the proclamation is quite liberal but this notion didn't last too long and the conservatism of the catholic hierarchy soon had opportunity to increase its role and dominance of Irish social life and influence. The church effectively ran the education system and played a large role in the health system through ownership of most of the hospitals and their role in running them and their presence as nuns were worked as nurses. The rise of Fianna Fail probably owes is closely tied with the support it got from the catholic church and it is unclear what role leading capitalists of the day in America had through the church and education system as it is not widely realized that in the early 1900s, Carnegie one of the richest men in America, paid for the construction of over 100 libraries in Ireland which even today would represent a massive infusion of charity. Money like that is not spent without something in return and the question still to be asked is what influences were at work behind the scenes with the catholic church given that this era was when communist and socialist ideas were to the fore and were threatening the capitalist system. It can only be concluded that some effort must have been made to ensure Ireland was steered clear of liberal ideas for fear these become socialist ones. It would seem that from the 1930s right up to the 50s and early 60s Ireland became even more conservative and repressive of progressive thought and it is no coincidence this corresponds to the awful period of the Magdalene laundries, the industrial schools, religious institutes like Sisters of apparently no Mercy and the whole package of forced adoptions and clerical abuse but slowly from the end of the 1960s their power was pushed back.
On the economic front the country was very poor, had virtually no industrial base and struggled although the construction of the Shannon hydroelectric scheme in 1925 at Ardnacrusha quickly followed by the establishment of the ESB proved to be very positive developments and effectively kicked off electrification of Ireland because this had an immediate impact on the social, economic and industrial development of Ireland. Despite this the 1930s and again in the 1950s there were large waves of emigration. From 1945 onwards into the 50s the telephone network was greatly expanded throughout the country and undoubtedly contributed to the development of Ireland. In the same period an effort was made from 1932 to clear the urban slums and an ambitious programme of building social housing more or less continued from then right up to the 1960s. Up to the late 1950s social housing output accounted annually for between a third and a half of total house building. This was the era when the suburbs of Crumlim, Drimnagh, Finglas and many others were built. Other state firms were formed during this time, for example, CIE in 1945 dealing with Rail and intercity bus and Dublin Bus all contributing to the economy through the provision of services, Irish Sugar, Bord Na Mona (1946), Aer Lingus (1936), Agricultural Credit Corporation (1927), Cement Limited (1936)
However towards the end of the 1950s the economic strategy of protectionism and building our own industrial firms was abandoned by Fianna Fail in favour of encouraging foreign direct investment which has been more or less the policy ever since. Some would argue this amounted to offering up our resources to foreign multinationals and providing the labour population as a form of resource as relatively cheap labour for pretty much the same firms. The other significant development was in 1973 when we joined what was then called the EEC, now called the EU. This opened up markets for Ireland and it seemed to accelerate the liberalisation of Ireland and it seemed to generally almost force Ireland into adopting more progressive, liberal ways and pushing it to protect its own environment including sending wads of money towards Ireland for rural development and infrastructural aid. It is then easy to see why people were for so long strongly pro EU and favorable towards it. It has gone largely unnoticed that we surrendered our fisheries for all this EU money and it has been estimated the value of fish from Irish waters has been of great value than the many billions we received from the EU over the same period and it largely goes to drive home the point that when you appear to be getting something for free you are not really.
And so from the 1970s onwards into the 80s and 90s and right up the Celtic Tiger we see a different type of Ireland appear as the country had now changed significantly both economically and in daily life. There was also a generation growing up who had little knowledge or connection with the early years of the state and all of that history. What we see is that a great change occurred in the decade of the straddling the 70s and 80s and the emphasis seems to have changed from doing things to build up the country and the nation to lining one's own pockets as much as possible and looking after oneself. People who grew up prior to the 1980s would have memories of strong communities and people knowing many of their neighbours well. In earlier years it was common for communities in housing estates to have common street parties/picnics or outings to the beach in the summer. In these latter years the vast majority hardly know their next door neighbours and we seem to live in anonymous neighbourhoods with little sense of commonality and in some ways the attraction of Facebook for people is that it superficially fulfils this human social need but unfortunately directs it in a narcissistic way for commercial gain.
Jumping to the present we can now see that this shift in the 1980s has reached it's end point where today we are actually going backwards socially, as we are immersed in a full blown crisis of nationhood and what it means to be Irish as thousands and thousands have been made homeless, there is a massive housing crisis creatinga generation who will never been able to escape renting unable to save up to buy their own home, absentee British landlords have been replaced with capitalist vulture funds all the while protected by the main establishment parties, a chronic health system which purposely is not fixed so as to drive frightened people into the hands of private health insurers, attacks on the rights of working conditions, zero contract hours, looming privatisation of our water system and the almost certain long term privatisation of all state services once the undemocratic EU-US TTIP agreement is signed. At the same time suicide is at an all time high and mental illness is a major issue.
We must not forget the massive bailout of the banks, foreign bond holders, developers and generally members of the 1% and how we have transferred huge private debt onto the banks of the public and all this time not a hint of justice served. Forgotten too has been the handing over for free of Corrib gas field to Shell who will not have to pay any royalties to Ireland. How this all happened is documented through a series of clearly treasonous actions by our politicians over a number of years to steadily reduce the royalties to nothing up to recently.
The soul of Ireland is being sold off. It is undemocratic and we are becoming the defenceless prey of multi-national corporations and our successive government and main political parties have facilitated this. British colonalism has been replaced by corporate colonalism and is driving not just Ireland into a form of neo corporate fuedalism of a modern form of debt slaves. It is fitting really that it has all come to a head at the 100th anniversary because the effects of all this has been built on the backs of years many corrupt deals, practices and politics.
What is really strange is that today we are told the country can't afford this and that and yet when the country was a heck of a lot poorer than it is now, we managed to electrify the country, rollout the telephone system nationwide and build 10s of 1000s of social houses for years on end.
This leads to the question then of what is there to celebrate? Perhaps it is to celebrate that we actually had people who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the general good and who can still inspire us. Despite all the corruption, and the selfish and ideological beliefs of certain groups, institutions and others working against the people, a lot has been achieved and importantly we have hung onto our culture, particularly of music, literature and the arts but if we want to get anywhere close to the ideals of the proclamation which amounts to controlling our own destiny for the benefit of the people, then it is the people themselves who have to force the change and make it happen just like the men of 1916 got fed up waiting for the British and decided to speed up things.
POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT
TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND
IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.
Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.
Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:
THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN Mac DIARMADA THOMAS MacDONAGH
P. H. PEARSE EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY JOSEPH PLUNKETT