Former 26-County Taoiseach John Bruton has been asked to stop insulting the families of those who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising after he again grabbed headlines by delcaring that the Rising and subsequent War of Independence should never have taken place.
In a submission to the coalition government requesting that the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Home Rule Bill on September 18th, 1914, be marked as part of the decade of commemoration, Mr Bruton suggested that both the Easter Rising and War of Independence had been “unnecessary”.
Arguing that the proposal was “on the statute book” in 1914, he contended that Ireland would have been awarded ‘Home Rule’ were it not for the Rising. A form of autonomy within the United Kingdom, ‘Home Rule’ was postponed by the London government following the outbreak of the First World War and scrapped entirely by 1918.
In his submission, Bruton also maintained that the Easter Rising and War of Independence “should not be retrospectively justified” in the commemorations that are to be undertaken over the next 10 years.
“Ireland could have achieved better results, for all the people of the island, if it had continued to follow the successful non-violent parliamentary Home Rule path,” he said.
His comments repeated those he made in London last month, when he said that the Rising leaders had “rejoiced” in the use of violence and had legitimated the later existence of the Provisional IRA.
The remarks appeared to form part of an orchestrated campaign by the Dublin and London governments to lower nationalist sentiment and downplay the significance of the Rising centenary.
Bruton’s remarks had served to “denigrate the sacrifice of the participants and their families”, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said.
Mr Adams also criticised the Dublin government’s preparations for the centenary of the 1916 Rising. He said Mr Bruton’s remarks had caused “further concerns” and called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to clarify his own view on the matter.
“I have been raising for some time now both in the Dail and elsewhere, the widespread concern at what has so far been a minimalist approach to marking the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising,” he said.
“There is as yet no programme of events for the anniversary and the only suggestion so far by members of this government has been around inviting British royalty.”
He said the 1916 Rising had been a seminal event in Irish history and “a decisive blow in the struggle for Irish freedom”.
Fianna Fail’s former Minister Eamon O Cuiv said that Bruton’s belief that Britain might have ceded independence to Ireland without an armed struggle was “delusional”.
Mr O Cuiv, grandson of Eamon de Valera, said there was no evidence to suggest that Britain would have allowed the Irish Free State to have its own army or foreign policy had it not been for the Easter Rising and War of Independence.
He pointed out the ‘Home Rule’ on offer in 1914 was less than what Wales enjoys at the moment, and that Britain would not have conceded independence to Ireland without a fight.
Mr O Cuiv also pointed out that the Easter Rising saved tens of thousands of Irish lives as it gave the Irish public the courage to resist conscription and recruitment to the British Army’s European campaign.
“If Britain had the commitment to democracy that John Bruton claims it had, why in 1918, when the Irish people clearly voted in a democratic election organised by the British themselves for independence, didn’t they just say that would accede to the wishes of the people?”
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly said Easter Rising descendents were “upset and angered” by Mr Bruton’s comments.
Mr Daly said it gave the impression that the lives they sacrificed for Ireland were in vain.
He called on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys to clarify her views on the Rising. Ms Humphreys is the chair of the committee organising the various commemorations remembering the revolutionary period and the first World War.
Mr Daly said: “It would seem deeply inappropriate for the chair of the group tasked with organising the commemorations to hold the same views as those expressed by the former leader of her party this morning.”
A spokesman for Minister Humphreys said the commemorative arrangements for the Centenary of the Easter Rising are still “under development”.