Friday, 25 March 2016

1916 centenary. Part Two - Other Narratives

This civil war may have been a long time ago, yet the denial of other narratives remains the cornerstone of modern Ireland. While Fianna Fail emerged from the anti-Treaty side and Fine Gael from the pro Treaty, politically both pursued the same narrative for Ireland Tax Breaks, Exemptions and Amnesties for Wealthy White Men; Holy Communion for Everybody Else. (A narrative also supported by the Green Party and the Labour Party when in coalition).

In the Ireland of 2016 to step outside the official narrative is to be mad, bad, or an apologist for terrorism. This denial or traducing of other narratives is to be daily observed in the commentary of the political and media classes. In recent years this has been seen in the coverage of grass root movements like the anti-war protests at Shannon, the Shell to Sea campaign in Mayo and most recently in the anti-water charges campaign. This denial of alternative narratives reached its most hysterical apogee in the 2011 presidential election, where the Labour candidate quietly wandered nodding and smiling through the most pleasant of questionings from interviewers. The Sinn Fein candidate, on the other hand, was met with a barrage of hatred and invective, though whether this hatred was because of his involvement in the troubles or because of his working class background was difficult to say.  

What is most troubling is that denial of narratives is no longer something that Ireland’s elite actively choose to do. Instead exclusion is hard wired into the fabric of Ireland’s institutions, whether they be political, cultural, economic or academic. The Abbey Theatre seemed genuinely shocked to learn that women can actually write plays. The National University of Ireland still appears to be locked into denial that women are capable of being professors . As for the working class voting for anti-austerity candidates in the 2016 election – well that was not a valid expression of an alternative vision. Rather, so the narrative goes, it was a dangerous and uninformed dialliance with forces that could damage the economic recovery…

There has been some progress recently - marriage equality was a huge boost to all those excluded from official Ireland. Yet, sadly it remains the case that overwhelmingly the exclusion of other voices remains the default position of the Irish state. Which brings me back, in my meandering way, to the army school visits.

As I say this was no innocuous event. It meant that space was denied for people representing groups who were involved in the Easter Rising, including trade unionists, feminists, socialist and artists. A hundred years after the rising it is clear that we are not all cherished equally, that there are voices that our children must not be exposed to especially in the run up to first communion…

The city museum video of the proclamation is a small but hopeful acknowledgement that there are other voices in Ireland. Go along and check it out, and all the other incredible exhibitions – you’d be surprised at how rich and diverse a history our city has.
As for Ireland itself, here’s a small selection of alternative voices you might want to look at in this centenary year. Enjoy!

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