Reclaim The Republic/Athshealbhaígí an Phoblacht

“What The Proclamation Means To Me”

By Tom Cooper (Cathaoirlaeach, Irish National Congress)

The revolutionary assertion of the Irish people in 1916 to break the connection between Ireland and the British Empire, led by the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation took on not just national but global significance. Not alone did the Easter Rising change the course of Irish history, but the echo of resistance which resonated around the world gave hope and inspiration to colonised peoples everywhere. In subsequent generations, subjugated peoples worldwide found the inspiration to challenge empires, which in turn hastened the end of the imperial and colonial era which caused misery and kept people in hopeless poverty and hardship.

The Proclamation would be regarded as both noble and generous. In claiming the allegiance of every Irish man and Irish woman, the Proclamation in return guaranteed religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens and a promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally.

Not alone did the 1916 Rising knock the first brick out of the colonial walls of world empires which would eventually disintegrate, it sounded the death knell of Redmondism, conscription, Home Rule, and imbued a sense of national pride in a population which was confused as to its identity. No more would we be subject to a monarch, we would be citizens of a free state whose values of egalitarianism and equality would be enshrined in our constitution.

Unfortunately, not all in this state feel as I do regarding the Proclamation. During the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion, some members of Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Council voted against the 1916 Proclamation being displayed in their building. After many decades of denying our revolutionary past, there are indications that the Irish state is beginning to embrace the revolutionaries of 1916. The re-interment of Kevin Barry and his brave comrades into the republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery from Mountjoy jail, and the possible return of the Manchester Martyrs is a positive sign. Also, 2006 was the first year since 1971 that the Irish state officially commemorated the most seminal event in the foundation of this state and for 20th century separatist Irish republicanism. Without the 1916 Rising, and Proclamation, there would have been no landslide Sinn Fein victory in 1918, no declaration of independence by the first Dáil in 1919, no defence of that independence in the War of Independence from 1919-21 and no incomplete British recognition of that independence in the Treaty of 1921.

For nationalists and republicans the fact that victory was not total and that the great national struggle was followed by partition, betrayal, and civil war tarnished our sense of achievement and pride. However, these events should not detract from the historic and unique achievements of the revolutionaries of 1916 and the hope that they inspired, not only in generations of Irish people but for oppressed people all around the world.