Sunday, 22 July 2012

Patrick Pearse & The Birth of Irish Fascism

When we look at the life of Patrick Pearse we focus on defining the man as the Irish teacher, barrister, poet, or writer, and the man who claimed nationhood. But few Irish historians will even touch upon Pearse as the Roman Catholic nationalist zealot. Or ask the question 'was 1916 rebellion the birth of Irish fascism'? The title of Ruth Dudley Edwards Book "Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure " aptly describes the life and dead of Pearse, and the republicanism which he and his fellow rebel leaders advocated in 1916.

Born into a lower middle class family Pearse was influenced by the Gaelic revival of the 1890's and very much a by-product of Celtic Nationalism which emanated from that revival. A resumption that defined Irishness on cultural and religious grounds; to be thoroughly Irish, one had to be thoroughly Roman Catholic and nationalist. There was no room for democracy, bearing in mind that in 1916 Ireland had a fully functional democracy. Nor was there room for diversity of national identity in Pearse's republic. As an "idealist psychopath" Pearse armed his generation to murder, mostly unarmed citizens and children, and by doing so he set in train the legacy of republican violence for political ends.

Pearse the fascist educator: his pupils were to, [P. Pearse] "work-hard for their fatherland and if it should ever be necessary, die for it". Thirty pupils and four teachers of St Enda's school would follow their commandant general of the army of the Irish republic and president of the self-appointed provisional government into the GPO in 1916. These young boys where ahead of their time when it came to their education, for St Enda's school held an educational ethos; like what was witnessed in fascist Europe in the 1930s, with an educational focus on physical fitness, mythology, drama, pageantry, and above all militarism.

These young minds where well brain washed. [P. Pearse] "we may make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the wrong people(...) a nation that views blood in horror has lost its manhood. Pearse's ideology thought young people to rely on the gun and to disregard everything else. But his ideology went further in 1922, by providing a template for creating the mono-cultural Irish State, based on work, religion, motherland. The blood cult of physical force republicanism, and the necessity for blood sacrifice would poison many young Irish minds, and pave a murderous path with the lives of the innocent. The legacy of Pearse's intent, is best summed up by one of his own, nationalist writer O'Hegaty who outlines in his book, Victory of Sian Fein (1924) "transforming it (Ireland) into a physical slaughter house' characterized by contempt for life, for decency, for charity and tolerance." It is interesting to note that O'Hegaty is writing form the point of the citizen and society, rather than the propaganda view of 1916 and the war of independence, which focuses on the patriot martyrs, flying columns, and great prison escapes.

The cult of 1916: as we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rebellion we will find ourselves a-wash with books and social events commemorating the whole bloody saca of the week long rebellion. View historians will highlight nor question the fundamental heresy against a democratic society; 'the use of violence to achieve a political goal'. In buff-ed up reverence to Pearse and the leaders of 1916 rebellion, W.B, Yeats is often quoted "a terrible beauty is born " You will never hear his words from Yeats's 1926 Senate speech; on the passing of the Censorship Bill, Divorce bill, Contraception bill. For Ireland now resembles [W.B, Yeats]"medieval Spain". W.B. Yeats Seanad Eireann Speeches 1922-28

The 1916 rebellion failed, furthermore the ideology of Peares was a failure. For Ulster is firmly set within the united kingdom. The economic and political future of the Irish Republic rests at the center of the European Union. So let 1916 be just a plip in the Nations history. Let not our nation be defined by it, let it be just a tourist attraction. Where you can take a 1916 walking tour and hear the stories of flying columns and great prison escapes, or a visit to kilmainham Jail where you can see the miraculous Republican wounds which will never heal. "if we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this Nation maybe transformed" beautiful words from senator Yeats in 1926, and in 2012 Ireland has "changed, changed utterly".

Chris Thackaberry Irish historian and Failte Ireland approved tour guide. If you are looking to research Irish history then visit our website we have many informative cultural links to heritage agencies ie National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin.