Easter 1916

96 years ago Britain was a global superpower.

Although she was no longer a biggest economy in the world the grand old dame Britannia was still top bulldog.

She had a highly professional army and the largest, most powerful navy on the planet.

Britannia did indeed rule the waves.

Subsequently any attempt to challenge British state power on their own doorstep was absolute madness.

Moreover anyone thinking that they could mobilise for an armed rebellion in Ireland was clearly a few hand grenades short of an ambush.

Every few miles in my country the Royal Irish Constabulary had a fortified barracks.

Informers were recruited, cultivated and remunerated in every village on the island.

As one official stated at the time “Ireland was under a microscope” and it was no idle boast.

That makes the events I now write about even more remarkable.

The Rising was planned under the noses of Britain’s functionaries in Ireland

The colonial apparatchiks were taken by surprise

Given the amount that the Brits had invested in spies and informers in Ireland it was a stunning failure.

Only the Royal Navy spooks had some idea that something was planned.

However, they didn’t trust their colleagues in Dublin Castle as they thought the detective branch “G men” had been penetrated by the rebels!

Although the revolutionaries made all manner of basic errors in their choice of the buildings that they seized in the capital they caught the enemy totally unawares.

The importance of the Rising was in the symbolism rather than the substance.

This was revolutionary theatre where the main cast would die as the curtain came down in the stonebreaker’s yard in Kilmainhaim.

The Proclamation was read at the GPO by Padraig Pearse, with James Connolly at his side.

In that moment a new country, a republic, was born out of an ancient nation.

Not merely free, but Gaelic, not merely Gaelic, but free.

Almost a century on all is changed, changed utterly.

Today Britain builds two aircraft carriers, but can’t afford the planes for them.

These two sea going pandas can’t do the business on the ocean wave.

They have become a metaphor of a Britain that can no longer cut it as a major player in the world.

The idea of aircraft carriers without planes is truly Monty Python stuff although the Brits can’t put on much of a flying circus these days.

There has been a massive haemorrhaging of power and influence from the Westminster state in my lifetime.

Once the “jewel in the crown of the Empire” India is now a modern republic and the world’s biggest democracy.

They have two carrier strike groups in their navy and have just launched a submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles.

Big league stuff.

I would not be surprised if India, the ex-colony, takes the two aircraft carriers from Britain.

The Indian navy can easily afford them.

Britain can’t.

On the centenary of the Rising in four years Brazil will have a bigger economy that Britain.

Pele’s country has an aircraft carrier.

They’ve got planes for it too.

Here in Ireland the creation of Lloyd George’s mendacity is still with us.

The Northern polity isn’t a proper democracy.

Indeed the enforced coalition tells the world that it isn’t a normal society.

The nationalist minority is now around 45-46%.

The school rolls tell that the old demographic profile that picked the six of the nine counties of Ulster on a sectarian headcount have changed forever.

Sammy’s Wee Ulstur is gone and it isn’t coming back.

In the city where Connolly and his men went out to be slaughtered the guys from the IMF tell the Irish “government” what to do.

The issue of the sovereignty of the people of Ireland remains as live an issue as when my grandfather and his comrades unearthed their few old guns this week 96 years ago in Mayo.

The countermanded order by Eoin MacNeill meant that the Rising down the country was a shambles.

My granny’s two brothers were scooped up and interned in Britain.

It was a good education.

Three years later the young Mayo Volunteers of 1916 had developed into a very effective guerrilla force.

The enemy, psychologically exhausted after the Great War stumbled on the long road to Carrowkennedy.

Fighting the British was brutal stuff and the execution of informers was utterly necessary.

The young men who carried out this work were terribly troubled in their later years about what they had done in those days.

My grandfather was one of them.

Then it stopped.

After centuries of rule they left the 26 counties forever.

The hated union jack was lowered at Dublin Castle.

It was the first blow against the Empire in the 20th century.

Others would follow the example when the time was right for them.

England’s first colony had shown the rest of the peoples under the Butcher’s Apron that one day the sun could set on the British Empire.

Despite all of our problems in Ireland today no one wants the Brits back.

Nothing personal you understand it is just national business.

I’ve always liked English people.

They have given the world so much that is positive, quirky and idiosyncratic.

These are qualities that affirm the human condition.

What this remarkable nation needs to do now is to fully acknowledge their huge crimes in the imperial age.

These days the English and Irish are good neighbours.

The British head of state bowed her head and honoured the men and women of 1916 at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin last year.

Her First Minister in Northern Ireland Peter Robinson who attended the state banquet should now, in my opinion, follow in the footsteps of his Queen.

I am sure a suitably appropriate show in the capital can be put on for the man who spent so many years as Ian Paisley’s éminence grise and is now THE man in the unionist laager in his own right.

If his head of state can honour Ireland’s struggle then so can he.

It was madness in 1916 to oppose the British Empire.

Complete insanity.

The British saw it was treasonable and delinquent especially during the Great War.

I have noticed that well behaved people have, in history, achieved very little indeed.

Despite the bleating of West Brit revisionists in the Dublin media today the nation of the townlands know that it was right for people to be “out” in Easter week.

Rebellions are usually about the existential.

We simply didn’t want to be owned by someone else.

The Rising was insane and I’m proud to have that  madness in my blood.

Who fears to speak?

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