Wednesday, 18th April 2012
Reclaiming the Republic
For better or worse, the Republic of Ireland was declared in 1916. Two years later, by democratic will of the people, Dáil Éireann was elected to effect it. Óglaigh na hÉireann, in turn, were tasked to defend it.
It was appropriate on Easter Sunday last that our President, Taoiseach and Óglaigh na hÉireann (the official and Irish language name for our defence forces, inclusive of army, navy, air corps and their reserves) gathered at the GPO in Dublin to pay tribute to those who fell in 1916 and in the War of Independence which followed it.
For one, I’d like to see Óglaigh na hÉireann utilised by the state to extend such commemoration to places like Waterford City and County. Display by defence force personnel is appreciated by the public here. Participation by our full time and reserve soldiers in last month’s Tricolour commemoration in Waterford and in subsequent St. Patrick’s Day parades throughout the county are cases in point.
In drilling at the GPO in 2012, today’s Óglaigh na hÉireann serve the memory of fallen predecessors from West Waterford: Walsh in Ring, Fitzgerald and Keating at the Burgery, Cummins at Ballyvoile, Burke, Dahill, Lynch, Quinn and the Dunfords at Kilgobinet and Hurton on his way home to Ardmore. All of them – succeeded today in West Waterford by Óglaigh na hÉireann’s D Company of the 33rd Reserve Infantry Batallion of the Southern Brigade based in Dungarvan – are worthy of commemoration in their own county by the state.
In the absence of an official remembrance event in Co. Waterford this Easter, it’s understandable that many of those especially proud of our past (and not necessarily of any political persuasion) – including relatives of those that fought in the War of Independence – would turn to occasions not organised by the state. Of course, anyone is entitled to stage such a remembrance event and I admire the dedication of those who do. I am sure I am not alone in my discomfort, however, when reading of one aspect of the annual West Waterford IRA Brigade Memorial Association commemoration, which took place in Ardmore on Easter Sunday last.
It was reported that the Ardmore event featured the laying of a wreath "on behalf of Óglaigh na hÉireann". As can be verified by a quick phone call to the Press Office of Óglaigh na hÉireann at (045) 492502, the entity on whose behalf the garland was placed in Ardmore is not the one Dáil Éireann supports to serve on our behalf.
I recall the President of Provisional Sinn Féin Gerry Adams TD making it clear when he joined the Taoiseach in attending the funeral of murdered PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr in Co. Tyrone in April of last year, that not only was the Provisional IRA’s "war" over but that they were "gone". This leads one to wonder as to who were the pretenders to the title of Óglaigh na hÉireann afforded such prominence at Ardmore on Easter Sunday?
Whatever about regaining our sovereignty – which is a terrible challenge to contend with in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising – our President Michael D. Higgins has spoken of "reclaiming the Republic" his own father fought for. It helps that there is an obvious intent on the part of the current government to commemorate events around that subject and I think the awfulness of the Civil war and the memory of those lost on each side should be marked appropriately.
I would respectfully suggest that the sooner such commemorations - including here in Co. Waterford - become more synonymous with the state than not, the better it will be for all of us.
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