Identity crises in Dublin, Belfast


An Irish language group has attacked a Dublin City Council banner featuring moderate nationalist John Redmond on the Bank of Ireland building at College Green.

The banner was erected earlier this month as part of an attempt to provide ‘balance’ as part of the city’s 1916 commemoration programme. Redmond, who strongly condemned the Easter Rising as “wicked and insane”, is featured, along with three other parliamentary nationalists figures who died decades before 1916.

Activist group Misneach said it drew over Redmond’s face in a protest against “revisionist propaganda”. The group said it painted the number 35,000 on the banner to represent the number of Irish people estimated to have died during World War I. Redmond had called on his fellow countrymen to join the British forces during the conflict.

Misneach said it was opposed to Dublin City Council “trying to promote a narrative of the Rising that includes constitutional nationalists”.

Dublin City Council defended the banner last week following widespread criticism. In a statement, it said the figures displayed at College Green were “as much a part of the historical narrative of Irish nationalism as anyone else”.


In another controversial commemoration, the green postboxes in Dublin have been painted red. The 26 County post service, An Post, said it chose the colour because in 1916 all postboxes across Britain and Ireland were red.

In a weekend where Irish people are celebrating their national identity and the struggle for independence, the nod to colonial rule bewildered tourists and locals alike. Anna McHugh, head of communications for An Post, said the idea was an attempt to get involved in the rising commemorations.

“We were thinking about what our postboxes would have witnessed, because so many of them are in the same position as they were during Easter Week, and in many cases the same box is there,” she said.

In contrast the normally red postboxes along the Falls Road have been painted green -- unofficially -- ahead of the Easter Rising parades in Belfast.

Political historian Eamon Phoenix pointed to the irony that Rising hero James Connolly, who had a bust erected in his honour on the Falls this week, once said that a workers’ republic would require armed struggle, and it wouldn’t just be a matter of painting the postboxes green.

Mr Phoenix recalled that symbols on the Falls Road have changed their meaning over the years, including the time in 1914 when Redmond was welcomed with Union Jacks, because of his pro-British views. And it was an Irish tricolour flying on the Falls Road fifty years later which is often described as marking the start of the current conflict, when Ian Paisley led a unionist mob to remove the flag from Sinn Fein offices.

Flags along the Falls Road continue to cause tensions in 2016 after a number bearing the slogan ‘D’ Coy 2nd Battalion’, referring to a famous unit of the Provisional IRA, appeared last weekend.

DUP North Belfast reprsentative William Humphrey condemned them and said there “can be no pretence that these are in any way historic”. Sinn Fein insisted it had no involvement in the erection of the flags, with one party member warning against attempts to “aggravate a section of another community.”


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© 2016 Irish Republican News