A Broad Church too far?

British soldiers shelter behind an improvised barricade during Easter Week, 1916.

British soldiers shelter behind an improvised barricade during Easter Week, 1916.


Last week I wrote about the ‘bandwagoneering’ of the Easter Rising. This week’s blog is in a similar vein. The Commanding Officer of the Sherwood Forresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment), some of the soldiers who helped suppress the Rising, has called on the Irish Government to honour the sacrifice of those soldiers and to commemorate their deaths during the Rising also. As I forecasted in last week’s post, opening up the commemoration of the Rising to the broad spectrum which the government seems to favour, throw up its own difficulties;

How do you mark an event that was illegal (Home Rule was coming), led to large loss of life (especially civilians and sickeningly, children), pointless (the rebels knew they were doomed) and ultimately could be classed beside the Munich Putsch. And despite all the detractors, support for and remembrance of the Rising has never been higher.

So the government is now in the unenviable position of having to comment on whether or not the sacrifices of British soldiers who died during the First World War should be commemorated as part of the 1916 events. What we’re going to wind up with eventually is the farce that it is historically OK to have been a British soldier during the Great War, to have fought and died for your country, as long as it wasn’t fighting against the Irish, who were actually claiming to have had ‘Gallant Allies in Europe.’ Just to be clear.

By making the church of commemoration as broad as possible, with the very lofty aims of encompassing all the various traditions of Ireland, we run the risk of having the roof collapse on us. Simply put the Rising should be marked for what it was; in the Irish language it is known as Eirí Amach na Cásca or the Uprising of Easter. An uprising, an illegal event, brought about by the illegal drilling and illegal importation of arms by the Irish Volunteers, in response to the illegal drilling and illegal importation of arms by the Ulster Volunteer Force. An uprising in contravention of (questionable) law and order practices and ordinances enforced by the British state on the soon to be Home Ruled Irish state. An uprising which sought to subvert the very real arrival of Home Rule, but which the British themselves felt unable to fully implement as their own British Army had signalled their intention to mutiny if they were tasked with suppressing UVF opposition to the creation of a Dominion Parliament in Dublin.

Fine and complicated isn’t it. Perhaps we, the current Irish, should just commemorate the British soldiers who sought to suppress the then Anti-British uprising, undertaken by Irish separatists, who were technically still British subjects, though allied with Germans, but not allowed the status of belligerents, despite wearing uniforms……this could go on and on. And probably will.


For further information about the exploits of the Sherwood Forresters during Easter Week, please see the following link to the Mercian Regimental History site http://www.crich-memorial.org.uk/sherwoodforesters.html

For further information about the Ulster Volunteer Force’s capabilities, please see the following link to History Ireland http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-ulster-volunteers-1913-1914-force-or-farce/

About eamonntgardiner

Dr. Eamonn T. Gardiner, is a Consulting Historian. He has previously conducted research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans of the First World War serving as Auxiliary Policemen, during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. He has written extensively on British central and colonial administrative responses to popular insurgencies. In 2009 he published 'Counterinsurgency and Conflict: Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War (CSP, 2009).' Published papers include; 'The training of the Irish Volunteers, 1913-1916' (The Irish Sword, 2017); 'Scattered, Ambushed and Laid Out: War and Counterinsurgency in the greater Tuam area, 1919-1921' (JOTS, 2015). Research interests include De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism; Insurgency, Police/Military Histories; Institutional Histories; Modern Irish/World History; History of Conflict, Protectorates and Peace-Keeping; Hegemony; Old and New Terrorism.
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