We in the unionist community understand why Irish politicians feel the need to make political capital out of following in the footsteps of the ‘heroes’ of the past.
Britain has long celebrated the glory of its own past, but the heroes of the past make poor role models for today.
We might have statues of Richard the Lionheart or Oliver Cromwell outside our parliament, but their behaviour at Acre or Droheda would impress no-one today.
As some in Ireland remember 1916 we would do well to keep in mind that Patrick Pearse and the others were men of their time, they believed in the glory of killing and dying for their country and talked of bloodshed being ‘a cleansing and a sanctifying thing’.
No-one today believes that the bloodshed of World War One was anything other than a tragedy, yet one still meets people who can admire the way Wilfred Owen exposed the stupidity of WW1 but at the same time maintain that the violence that took place in 1916 was somehow glorious and should be celebrated.
I read on today’s BBC website of the Corr sisters from Belfast’s Ormeau Road, who ran away to join the rising in 1916, an event portrayed by some almost as though this was something to be admired, but if we admire the courage of the Corr girls, why do we not admire the courage of the Muslim girls who today run away to fight in Syria?
The Easter Rising was a mistake, it was born out of the vanity of some who sought glory in battle, and the stupidity of others who saw politically motivated violence as a quick way to solve political problems.
It plunged Ireland into a War of Independence followed by a Civil War and 100 years of politically motivated violence that has claimed the lives of many thousands of Irish people, including one just last week.
Politically motivated violence continues across the world today and it makes little difference if those carrying out violent acts shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Brussels or ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’ in Belfast, the end result is widow and orphans and suffering for the innocent.
It is time that we in Ireland were honest with those naïve and foolish young people still seeking personal glory, we need to tell them that the political violence of the past was a mistake and one that should not be repeated.
Arnold Carton, Belfast