Portillo: ‘It is one thing to respect the Republic, another to celebrate every aspect of the past’

The largest military parade in the history of the Republic passes the GPO as part of the 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemorations in Dublin on Easter Sunday 2016. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The largest military parade in the history of the Republic passes the GPO as part of the 1916 Easter Rising centenary commemorations in Dublin on Easter Sunday 2016. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Michael Portillo has said he understands the dilemma unionists faced about whether to attend last Sunday’s events in Dublin.

“I suspect they were torn,” he told the News Letter during our interview with the former Conservative cabinet minister about his documentary on the 1916 Rising.

“It’s one thing to respect the Republic and to recognise it as a close partner of the United Kingdom, another thing to as it were celebrate every element of the process that got us here.”

He laughs and adds: “I was part of a government led by Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher did not wish to celebrate the French Revolution of 1789 on its 200th birthday because, after all, it was bloodthirsty revolution that started cutting a lot of people’s heads off and she seemed a little old-fashioned 200 years after the event (laughs).

“So you understand that some people not only want to show respect but also want to think about the nature of the event itself at the time.”

Asked about the fact that the Rising had little support and the charge that it is used to legitimise later terrorism, Mr Portillo says that Home Rule had passed all the parliamentary stages and the Irish nationalist leaders had supported the British war effort. “So I think the question that one has to ask is were the rebels in any way entitled to rise up when the constitutional process was under way and is one of the consequences of their rebellion that Ireland is now divided? Of course their objective was an Ireland independent and united.”

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