Friday, July 24, 2015

Why the Insurrection Happened

From The Insurrection in Dublin, by James Stephens, 1916:

It happened because the leader of the Irish Party misrepresented his people in the English House of Parliament. On the day of the declaration of war between England and Germany he took the Irish case, weighty with eight centuries of history and tradition, and he threw it out of the window. He pledged Ireland to a particular course of action, and he had no authority to give this pledge and he had no guarantee that it would be met. The ramshackle intelligence of his party and his own emotional nature betrayed him and us and England. He swore Ireland to loyalty as if he had Ireland in his pocket, and could answer for her. Ireland has never been disloyal to England, not even at this epoch, because she has never been loyal to England, and the profession of her National faith has been unwavering, has been known to every English person alive, and has been clamant to all the world beside.

Is it that he wanted to be cheered? He could very easily have stated Ireland’s case truthfully, and have proclaimed a benevolent neutrality (if he cared to use the grandiloquent words) on the part of this country. He would have gotten his cheers, he would in a few months have gotten Home Rule in return for Irish soldiers. He would have received politically whatever England could have safely given him. But, alas, these carefulnesses did not chime with his emotional moment. They were not magnificent enough for one who felt that he was talking not to Ireland or to England, but to the whole gaping and eager earth, and so he pledged his country’s credit so deeply that he did not leave her even one National rag to cover herself with.

After a lie truth bursts out, and it is no longer the radiant and serene goddess knew or hoped for – it is a disease, it is a moral syphilis and will ravage until the body in which it can dwell has been purged. Mr. Redmond told the lie and he is answerable to England for the violence she had to be guilty of, and to Ireland for the desolation to which we have had to submit. Without his lie there had been no Insurrection; without it there had been at this moment, and for a year past, an end to the “Irish question.” Ireland must in ages gone have been guilty of abominable crimes or she could not at this juncture have been afflicted with a John Redmond.

He is the immediate cause of this our latest Insurrection – the word is big, much too big for the deed, and we should call it row, or riot, or squabble, in order to draw the fact down to its dimensions, but the ultimate blame for the trouble between the two countries does not fall against Ireland.

The fault lies with England, and in these days while an effort is being made (interrupted, it is true, by cannon) to found a better understanding between the two nations it is well that England should recognize what she has done to Ireland, and should try at least to atone for it. The situation can be explained almost in a phrase. We are a little country and you, a huge country, have persistently beaten us. We are a poor country and you, the richest country in the world, have persistently robbed us. That is the historical fact, and whatever national or political necessities are opposed in reply, it is true that you have never given Ireland any reason to love you, and you cannot claim her affection without hypocrisy or stupidity.

You think our people can only be tenacious in hate – it is a lie. Our historical memory is truly tenacious, but during the long and miserable tale of our relations you have never given us one generosity to remember you by, and you must not claim our affection or our devotion until you are worthy of them. We are a good people; almost we are the only Christian people left in the world, nor has any nation shown such forbearance towards their persecutor as we have always shown to you. No nation has forgiven its enemies as we have forgiven you, time after time down the miserable generations, the continuity of forgiveness only equalled by the continuity of your ill-treatment. Between our two countries you have kept and protected a screen of traders and politicians who are just as truly your enemies as they are ours. In the end they will do most harm to you for we are by this vaccinated against misery but you are not, and the “loyalists” who sell their own country for a shilling will sell another country for a penny when the opportunity comes and safety with it.

Meanwhile do not always hasten your presents to us out of a gun. You have done it so often that your guns begin to bore us, and you have now an opportunity which may never occur again to make us your friends. There is no bitterness in Ireland against you on account of this war, and the lack of ill-feeling amongst us is entirely due to the more than admirable behaviour of the soldiers whom you sent over here. A peace that will last for ever can be made with Ireland if you wish to make it, but you must take her hand at once, for in a few months’ time she will not open it to you; the old, bad relations will re-commence, the rancor will be born and grow, and another memory will be stored away in Ireland’s capacious and retentive brain.