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Saturday, March 26, 2016

From Proclamation to political vacuum

To actually assume power and implement policies is regarded as an inconvenience that would cost votes

Paul Murphy TD addresses water protesters. Picture: Sam Boal/

WAS it for this? A nation where nobody wants to govern. A century ago, seven men signed their death warrant by declaring themselves a provisional government. Today, most parties don’t even want to sign for an expense sheet in government. To actually assume power and implement policies is regarded as an inconvenience that would just cost votes.
The only party in the current Dáil that appears to want to govern is the Redmonites who lost the election. It’s as if they’re claiming that the people have no right to be wrong.
All others want nothing to do with exercising power in the democracy that rose from the ashes of the GPO. Fianna Fáil wants to keep its recovery going in opposition. Sinn Féin is intent on maintaining the slow building process that should see the party in government in time for the bicentenary.

The Social Democrats are terrified at the prospect of not being in opposition. And the Labour party, in the throes of post-traumatic stress disorder, are medically unfit to be in government.
As of now, there is still no sign of a “permanent national government, elected by all the suffrages of all her men and women” in sight. Was it for this that the children of the nation were summoned to the flag to strike a blow for freedom?
Was it for this? Vulture funds acting the maggot with the country’s housing crisis, undermining “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”. Bad enough that one government ran the ship of state onto the rocks, but it is now becoming increasingly clear that its successor administration contracted out the salvage job to “a foreign people” and handed over the “unfettered control of Irish destinies”.

Was it for this? A two-tiered health system, a two-speed economy, unequal access to education, particularly with regard to religious persuasion, or lack thereof. Racism. Insiders and outsiders. Illegal discrimination against people on the housing supplement. Discrimination against Travellers. Was it for this that the leaders proclaimed there would be “equal rights and equal opportunities”?

Was it for this? The freedom not to take everything so darn seriously during this year when we begin to remember why for so long we forgot what it was to commemorate. Or reimagine. Or reinterpret.
Or reflect. Or put a call into some pony-tailed marketeer to find out what we’re supposed to call this year’s knees-up.
Was it for this? Cultural imperialism, as best expressed by the alarming tendency of people to begin every sentence with the word “So”. This carry-on was traced by journalist Michael Lewis to Silicon Valley at the turn of the century, when all these techie heads indulged in it to explain stuff to mere mortals less tech obsessed, as if talking to small children.
Listen out for it. You thought the rising inflection at the end of sentence was bad? You ain’t heard nothing yet. “Valour and discipline” is now required to rid the country of this scourge.
Was it for this? Public emoting. If the seven leaders were around today, they would not be subjected to a court martial following surrender.

Instead, they would be sentenced to appear on a chat show and confess everything, wringing a whole gamut of emotion from their beings for the pleasure of the masses. Pardons would be awarded to those among them who shed the most tears.
Emotive backstories, including the conquering of bereavement, ill health and/or alcoholism would be required from all if they really wished to “assert their right to national freedom and sovereignty”. At the end of it all, the leaders would be crying out to bring back General John Maxwell as an act of mercy.

Was it for this? Operation Transformation. “In the name of God and the dead generations” please spare us.
Was it for this? Torturous national introspection on the exact meaning of the Proclamation. If we have to listen to much more of that it could lead to “the destruction of the Irish people”.
Was it for this? Gross misinterpretation of the Proclamation for the sake of torturous inspection. Just last Monday, an august body of commentators on the Claire Byrne Live Show all failed to point out that mentions of the phrase “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” was being misused.

The “children” referred to therein are adults, just as the “children” summoned to the flag are. The leaders were not attempting to recruit child soldiers in that line or further down the document proclaiming the “readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves”.
For some reason, it has become fashionable to use the “cherishing” line to decry how we have not lived up to some misinterpreted ideal. Of course actual children should all be cherished equally, but there’s no need to use the Proclamation as a benchmark. Basic human decency is all that is required.

Was it for this? Irish Water. Irish Water protesters. Irish Water’s water, which is only fair to middling at the moment, but heading in the right direction. Once upon a time it was a case that only our rivers run free, but treatment plants were not high on the agenda of those plotting the Rising.

Some who object to water charges claim that the government “who serve that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine”. Others say: “Get a life”.
Was it for this? The screening of The Queen Of Ireland on Easter Sunday night 2016. What would “the Most High God Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms” have made of a programme about a transvestite entertaining on the airwaves on such a night?
The movie following Panti Bliss around during the same-sex marriage referendum is not exactly Insurrection, and it’s difficult to see that it would have found any favour with Mr Pearse “in this supreme hour” of “the Irish nation”. Still them’s the breaks when you let loose and declare a Republic. It’s open season for all kinds of everything to follow.

Enjoy the weekend, particularly if you are attending any of the events.
On the whole the commemorations have gone ok. After a shaky start last year, when the government launched the programme as if it was a Tourism Ireland advert, the tone of the celebrations and commemorations has been pretty good.
Attempts by some elements to claim ownership of the Rising do not appear to have succeeded, but there’s a road to go with that yet. Instead, there’s a little something for everybody, everywhere.

Just as the anniversaries are a moveable feast — dependant on the dates for Easter— so too are people’s perceptions, and that is the great thing about freedom. The Rising belongs to everybody and nobody.

Was it for this? Probably. Happy Easter. Roll on 2017.
Michael Clifford

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Our government can no longer be held hostage by vested interests

I HAVE a gathering sense of optimism about the possibilities for the next government. It may be short-lived.
It must deliver one budget to justify its formation. If it delivers more than two, it will exceed expectations. Unquestionably, it will be messy.
Career-long crisis commentators will have a field day as inevitably some Independents who might sign up initially peel away.

There will be down-to the-wire negotiations within government and across the Dáil. And it will do fine, thank you. In fact, it is exactly what the country needs.
The irony is that a minority Fine Gael-led government — but called another name — with Independents either within government or effectively on the government benches, and supported externally on terms and conditions by Fianna Fáil, by default would be an ideal government for a period.

Firstly, it would ensure relatively little is done and secondly it would ensure that what is done is examined thoroughly. That would be new politics indeed. The fact that relatively little is attempted ensures there is at least an attempt to prioritise key issues. The process of required political inclusion could leave behind a permanently more empowered Dáil.
Blather talked about needing a “real” government now to sort immediate problems of homelessness and health is analysis at its most incontinent.
We have arrived at a housing crisis again via incoherent policies thrown pell-mell from the Customs House by ministers with clear majorities, which put them beyond challenge.

A continuous, ongoing budgetary crisis within health and a partial crisis within the health system itself is because its constituent parts depend on and prey upon crisis to leverage more resources.
A government with a clear majority would be hostage to public servants in the health services and elsewhere determined to translate political commitment to better public services into higher pay and pensions for public servants.

Majorities, especially large ones, as easily make governments weak rather than strong.
This economy is, in part, overheating already. The outgoing government, which gave us four years of fiscal prudence, threw caution to the wind, betting the house on a spending splurge in its final year — in a bid to win an election.
Old codgers in Fianna Fáil could have told them “it’s not enough to send the cheque in the post, you have to sweet talk them as well”. But that’s water under the bridge now. It is why we are where we are.

On Dáil reform, I am not misty-eyed about what it can deliver or the motives of those now advocating it most fervently. A more accountable government, however, is one step in ensuring that policy decisions are better over time.
By extension, and this is critical, it may prompt ministers whose feet are held to the fire more constantly ensure that their senior civil and public servants are equally held to account.
It is essential the 32nd Dáil, before it approves the nomination of a Taoiseach, hears evidence from senior officials in Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and — crucially — Health, on where spending is this year compared to projections.

No programme for government is worth the paper it is written on if it not fiscally informed. I sense that the full facts about health spending in the year to date and their political significance are not publicly or politically understood.
Estimable members of the commentariat have called for a grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Reading last Sunday’s papers I gave up counting how many. Now, the great chatter from the same sources is for those parties to talk, talk soon, talk about anything, but, at least talk. I am sure they will, but there’s no immediate hurry.
Politics is at its worst when it runs — trying, but failing, to catch-up with a breathless news cycle whose enduring lasting agenda is more news, news about anything, and news for the sake of news.

It is — as it should be — that these matters are taken slowly, that movement comes when it is prepared for, and that leaders worthy of the appellation are sufficiently sanguine to allow any news cycle pass but remain unperturbed. Those who cannot do it now certainly won’t be able to do it in government, when the heat is on.

The late Joe Walsh, many times minister for agriculture, was a model of the sort. A man of few words with a laconic disinterest in the media, he was always ready for the hard road.
When actual crisis, as distinct from political fuss, arrived with foot-and-mouth disease, he was the man whose hour had come. In hindsight you appreciate the worth of politicians like that more than you necessarily did at the time.

A key learning of the general election, one obscured by focus on the unhappy slogan “Keep The Recovery Going” is the lack of connection with, and, more ominously, alienation from a globalised, digitalised world. The advent of software hasn’t softened the subjection of man to machine, begun at the industrial revolution — it has accelerated it.
The radical left and right depend fundamentally on their appeal to alienation from the mainstream. That mainstream is now an economic and information superhighway that leaves people looking in, seeking access through flickering screens.

Other forms of value, including community, a sense of denomination in any coin except cash, is lost.
There was a sense not just that the recovery isn’t lifting me, it is that this society isn’t including me.
A widely-based government has an opportunity to seize momentum and the mood of the moment. When a government is likely formed next month, weeks after Easter Sunday’s centenary ceremonies, its programme can be shaped by commemoration.
The Republic can over the life of an even short-lived, sometimes messy 32nd Dáil become more accountable institutionally and avoid being held hostage by voracious vested interests out to gouge scarce resources on a grand scale.

It can rebuild bridges with communities and give back a lasting sense of pride with sustained investment in the Arts, Heritage, and Sport.
Here, relatively small sums go a very, very long way and do lasting good. Creating a new department of Community and Culture including functions like arts, sport, heritage, Gaeltacht, community affairs, and broadcasting, would create institutional ballast on a scale capable of delivering over time.

The current arrangements for all now are piecemeal, and destined to remain peripheral. No single step is a panacea, but every journey is a series consisting of specific milestones.
Broadening the base is imperative politically and a national need. People want to be brought in, to be included.

I hope independents have an opportunity to serve in government. There is scope for the Taoiseach to appoint up to two non-politicians to cabinet as senators.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In contrast, a grand coalition would be a round tower project, intended to preserve a few important people and their valuables for a short time only.
Gerard Howlin

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

United Irish economy could deliver boost of €36bn

 A united Ireland could result in a near €36bn boost to the island’s economy within eight years of unification, according to a study.

Seen as the first major examination of the potential economic effects of an all-island economy, the 'Modeling Irish Unification' report — undertaken by Canadian consultancy KLC and University of British Columbia academics, who have carried out similar reports on German and Korean unification — suggests “significant long-term improvement” in the economies of both the North and the Republic resulting from unification.
Its publication is set against the backdrop of continuing debate around Irish economic growth and the looming ‘Brexit’ referendum.
Report contributor Marcus Noland noted: “Northern Ireland is falling ever further behind the Republic in terms of economic development” and said future relations between North and South “potentially could become more problematic due to the possibility of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU”.

The North would particularly benefit from unification — with its exports initially rising by 5% and long-term GDP per capita increasing by 4%-7.5% — after adopting the euro and the Irish tax system; while the Republic would benefit from barrier-free access to the Northern market.
The North would also see greater openness to foreign direct investment, the authors note, and diminished trade barriers between it and other eurozone members.
It would see improved economic development and salary levels while the Republic would benefit from improved economies of scale for investment.
Lead researcher Kurt Hubner said the study points to “strong positive unification effects”.
“While these effects occur in a static global economic environment, under ideal political conditions, they underline the potential of political and economic unification when it is supported by smart economic policy,” said Dr Hubner.

“GDP in the Republic could rise by €30m to €152m in the year of policy implementation. In total, Irish unification could boost all- island GDP in the first eight years by as much as €35.6bn,” the report concluded.
Geoff Perceival

Tyrrelstown evictions show the nakedness of our democracy

They may be on the same site, but it’s a hell of a long way from Boland’s Mills to Boland’s Quay

Martin Maloinowsk is among the familes facing notice to quit their homes in Tyrrelstown. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/PA

One of the easiest things to remember when you study Irish history is the programme of the Tenant Right League, established in 1850. It campaigned for the Three Fs: fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure. The eventual winning of those demands was a huge part of the emergence of modern Irish democracy: the underlings becoming a political force that had to be reckoned with. And now, 166 years later, we have the Three Fs again. As the people of Tyrrelstown know only too well, the new Three Fs are two fingers and a “feck off outta here”.
Or as Rick Larkin, the property developer at the centre of the Tyrrelstown evictions, put it in the Sunday Business Post: “As a tenant your accommodation is a temporary arrangement. It is not permanent because you don’t own the home and you don’t have security of tenure.”
These exact words could have been spoken by a titled landlord in 1850.

We have a weirdly contradictory relationship to our history. On the one hand it stirs us and moves us. The commemorations of the 1916 Rising have real force for most of us. Beyond the crassness and the flag-waving, there is a genuine desire for a connection to a common past, a shared inheritance of struggle for collective dignity. That is a fine thing.
Yet on the other hand this sense of history is curiously abstracted. It is cut off from any real notion of what’s actually happening in the place we inhabit.

The point of the shared inheritance of struggle should be that it makes us feel empowered. Instead, it tends merely to make up for our lack of power. The pride we take in the past seems only to compensate in some strange way for the shame of our current condition.
We are masters of irony, though some of it is so heavy-handed that it would get you thrown out of a creative writing class. Consider Boland’s Mills, one of the main sites of the Rising. It is a resonant place in the history of the State because it was his command at Boland’s Mills (and the luck of being the only such commander to survive) that gave Eamon de Valera his mythic authority as apostolic successor to Patrick Pearse.

Do you know what’s happening to Boland’s Mills now? It is being rebranded. Boland’s Mills is becoming Boland’s Quay. Nama is using €170 million of public money to develop, through the giant British property company Saville , an enormous scheme for 30,000sq m of office space, with some high-end apartments and shops. Planning process This is the biggest construction project in the city in the last decade. It was rushed through the planning process in less than a year under the fast-track strategic development zone process. And this scheme is in turn part of Nama’s €7.5 billion development programme for 20,000 new homes and four million square feet of commercial space in Dublin’s docklands.

Dublin has not seen a government-driven development scheme on this scale since the 18th century.
Apart from the symbolism of turning the historically laden Boland’s Mills into the history-free Boland’s Quay, this tells us about two big things.
One is the sense of priorities. Here we have the State mobilising vast resources to develop commercial offices and homes for the private market. Yet this same State is unable to stop communities like Tyrrelstown from being torn apart by the rules of that same market. And it’s unable to act as a developer of public and social housing. The power of the State is skewed away from the needs of citizens and towards market needs.

The other thing that is happening here is the absence of democracy.
Aosdána, the official body of artists, has accurately described the Nama plan as “one of the most significant actions ever proposed for the city of Dublin by the government”. It is being done by a public agency on behalf of the citizens. Yet those citizens are locked out of the process. Social needs None of us gets a say either on the principles of the State prioritising private commercial development over social needs or on the actual plans.
They may be on the same site but it’s a hell of a long way from Boland’s Mills to Boland’s Quay.

For all their failings, the rebels believed the point of a republic was to shift power from remote authorities to Irish citizens acting collectively. How’s that working out for us? Are tenants any more secure now than when they were subject to the whims of ascendancy landlords? Is Nama more answerable to Irish democracy than Whitehall mandarins were in 1916?

Next week we’ll be waving our Tricolours with pride. But we should not let them be used as fig leaves to cover the shame of our lack of collective power and the nakedness of our democracy. We need not just to celebrate our own history but to live it.
Fintan ó Toole

Monday, March 21, 2016

Always look on the bright side of life

"Aint I A Woman?"

                                                        Sojourner Truth in 1851

The speech was recalled 12 years after the faction of 1851 by Gage, an activist in the women's rights and abolition movements. Gage, who presided at the meeting, described the event:

The leaders of the movement trembled on seeing a tall, gaunt black woman in a gray dress and white turban, surmounted with an uncouth sunbonnet, march deliberately into the church, walk with the air of a queen up the aisle, and take her seat upon the pulpit steps. A buzz of disapprobation was heard all over the house, and there fell on the listening ear, 'An abolition affair!" "Woman's rights and niggers!" "I told you so!" "Go it, darkey!" . . Again and again, timorous and trembling ones came to me and said, with earnestness, "Don't let her speak, Mrs. Gage, it will ruin us. Every newspaper in the land will have our cause mixed up with abolition and niggers, and we shall be utterly denounced." My only answer was, "We shall see when the time comes."

The second day the work waxed warm. Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Universalist minister came in to hear and discuss the resolutions presented. One claimed superior rights and privileges for man, on the ground of "superior intellect"; another, because of the "manhood of Christ; if God had desired the equality of woman, He would have given some token of His will through the birth, life, and death of the Saviour." Another gave us a theological view of the "sin of our first mother."

There were very few women in those days who dared to "speak in meeting"; and the august teachers of the people were seemingly getting the better of us, while the boys in the galleries, and the sneerers among the pews, were hugely enjoying the discomfiture as they supposed, of the "strong-minded." Some of the tender-skinned friends were on the point of losing dignity, and the atmosphere betokened a storm. When, slowly from her seat in the corner rose Sojourner Truth, who, till now, had scarcely lifted her head. "Don't let her speak!" gasped half a dozen in my ear. She moved slowly and solemnly to the front, laid her old bonnet at her feet, and turned her great speaking eyes to me. There was a hissing sound of disapprobation above and below. I rose and announced, "Sojourner Truth," and begged the audience to keep silence for a few moments.

The tumult subsided at once, and every eye was fixed on this almost Amazon form, which stood nearly six feet high, head erect, and eyes piercing the upper air like one in a dream. At her first word there was a profound hush. She spoke in deep tones, which, though not loud, reached every ear in the house, and away through the throng at the doors and windows.

The speech as recalled by Gage

The following is the speech as Gage recalled it in History of Woman Suffrage which was, according to her, in the original dialect as it was presented by Sojourner Truth:

"Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must be somethin' out o' kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin' 'bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all dis here talkin' 'bout?"
Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!" And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. 'And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear de lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?"

"Den dey talks 'bout dis ting in de head; what dis dey call it?" ("Intellect," whispered someone near.) "Dat's it, honey. What's dat got to do wid womin's rights or nigger's rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yourn holds a quart, wouldn't ye be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?" And she pointed her significant finger, and sent a keen glance at the minister who had made the argument. The cheering was long and loud.
"Den dat little man in back dar, he say women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wan't a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?" Rolling thunder couldn't have stilled that crowd, as did those deep, wonderful tones, as she stood there with out-stretched arms and eyes of fire. Raising her voice still louder, she repeated, "Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin' to do wid Him."

Oh, what a rebuke that was to that little man. Turning again to another objector, she took up the defense of Mother Eve. I can not follow her through it all. It was pointed, and witty, and solemn; eliciting at almost every sentence deafening applause; and she ended by asserting:
"If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now dey is asking to do it, de men better let 'em." Long-continued cheering greeted this. "'Bleeged to ye for hearin' on me, and now ole Sojourner han't got nothin' more to say."

Gage described the result: "Amid roars of applause, she returned to her corner leaving more than one of us with streaming eyes, and hearts beating with gratitude. She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried us safely over the slough of difficulty turning the whole tide in our favor. I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration. Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her, and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her God-speed on her mission of 'testifyin' agin concerning the wickedness of this 'ere people.'"

How the British ‘lost’ the Easter Rising

Viewed from a British perspective, the Rising was a calamity.
Because of the actions of a small and initially unrepresentative minority of rebels, Britain lost the support and confidence of nationalist Ireland which had been for the most part loyal to the empire in the long struggle for Home Rule.
The Rising precipitated the independence of one corner of the UK, led on to the partition of Ireland and the Troubles and emboldened British colonies elsewhere to seek their freedom, in turn hastening the end of the British empire.
The story of the Rising from a British perspective is being told in a documentary airing on both RTÉ One and BBC NI entitled The Enemy Files.
It is presented by former British cabinet minister turned broadcaster Michael Portillo, who was tipped as a future prime minister in the final years of the Tory government which was drummed out of office (as he was) in 1997.
Portillo had experience of the dilemmas British politicians face when confronted by Irish republicans.
He was defence secretary during the Canary Wharf bombings of 1996 which ended the IRA ceasefire.
Though he graduated from Cambridge with a first in history, Portillo confesses to having been no expert on the Easter Rising.
In that, he says he is no different from the vast majority of British people because the horrific slaughter of the first World War swamps everything else in the British popular memory from that time period.
He was employed for the documentary to bring a British politician’s perspectives to the time and to extricate the context from a “century’s worth of debris that has accumulated on top of this issue”.

Missed opportunities
The “enemy files” are British cabinet papers, intelligence dispatches and memoirs from soldiers of senior and minor rank.
They tell a story of intelligence blunders, missed opportunities, bad politics and the fog of war leading to poor decision-making.
The Rising amounted to a calamitous failure of intelligence of the part of the British secret service.
The British had been able to intercept telegrams between the German embassy in the US and Berlin explicitly stating that a Rising was going to occur on Easter weekend 1916.
Yet on the date in question, chief secretary Augustine Birrell and commander-in- chief in Ireland Sir Lovick Friend were in London, military leave had not been cancelled and the major buildings in Dublin were left almost undefended. Why?
Portillo reckons that Birrell, who hitherto had been known as an enlightened chief secretary for Ireland, had become complacent.
“He has been in the job for eight years and I think he has a genuine affection for Ireland and a genuine understanding of Ireland.
“ This leads him to believe that the Irish are not going to rise up,” Portillo says.
“He is so firm in that belief that it overcomes all evidence to the contrary.
“He simply dismisses it because it doesn’t fit with his view which is derived from his intuition about the Irish people.”
The alternative, once the intelligence had been received, was to round up all potential leaders. However, this would have led to another dilemma.
Eoin MacNeill, leader of the Irish Volunteers who issued the famous countermanding orders, had warned that any attempt to clamp down on the volunteers or their leaders would be the signal for military action.
There were thus no easy options for the British once the rebels decided to rise up.

Same mistake
What would Portillo have done? “I would have made the same mistake or I would have made a different mistake. But probably all the options would have been a mistake,” he says.
Portillo deals at length with the actions of British prime minister Herbert Asquith who effectively washed his hands of the whole affair and handed it over to Gen John Maxwell.
He reckons that by 1916, Asquith was a tired man, worn down by the burdens of office and prosecuting a war that was going badly for Britain.
In such circumstances, he lacked the firmness of purpose and the grip needed to deal with the aftermath.
The battles with the unionist and nationalist traditions had left him with a degree of “Irish exhaustion”, Portillo believes.
“Asquith never settles on any policy at all. It is not that he orders the executions, but it is that he doesn’t stop them. He never gets his mind around the idea that there is any political price to be paid.”
In the context of a military response to the Rising and in the context of the time, the execution of 16 leaders could be justified, Portillo believes.
The rebels had killed 115 British soldiers and had dealt with Germany, Britain’s sworn enemy.
However, he says the situation demanded a political response which was sorely absent until Asquith visited Ireland in the immediate aftermath of the executions, by which time the damage had been done.

Portillo puzzles over the reference in the Proclamation to “our gallant allies in Europe”, namely Germany.
He believes the reference was put there by Patrick Pearse to provoke the British into an over-reaction.
“How do you expect the British not to shoot people who refer to the gallant allies? It is not central to declaring independence for Ireland.
“The whole thing makes sense without having to mention Germany at all. If you pursue this theory that Patrick Pearse wanted martyrdom, then you know this is all part of it.”
Hence, he believes the British fell into the “propaganda trap” set for them by the leaders of the Rising.
Portillo likens the Rising to a “farce on a stage” where everything goes wrong, yet it turned out to be a momentous moment in history.
As a keen student of history, he finds this the most intriguing and surprising thing about it.
“It is difficult to predict what are the things that are going to change the fate of nations.”

The Enemy Files is on RTÉ One at 9.35pm on Monday

Ronan Mc Greevy