Monday, 2 May 2011

Dublin 1916 and Dublin 4

John Waters wrote in the Irish Times last week about how Dublin “never quite seceded from the British Empire, but seems to gaze forlornly across the Irish Sea.”

A familiar charge was repeated in the piece – that Dubliners didn't support the Easter Rising in 1916.

Other accounts tell of how the rebels were abused and spat on and that some Dubliners even engaged in a bit of opportunistic looting during the Rising.

Not the most flattering of portraits to say the least.

Waters also claims that the Dublin media is Anglocentric and is guilty of “promoting British provincialism as the reality of Irish culture.”

This article touches on some truths regarding Dublin, which in ways is more Anglocentric than other parts of the country, but its main premise does not add up.

Let me deal with some minor points made in the article. First of all, there is no Dublin government. The majority of TDs in the Dáil are from outside Dublin and many TDs elected in Dublin aren't even from the county. The Irish government is located in Dublin, that doesn't mean it's run by Dublin.

Secondly, Dublin lacks “any significant presence of an indigenous populace or self-generated culture,” according to the article. Never heard of Croke Park?

Regarding 1916, it's true that the ordinary citizens of Dublin did not respond to the call from the rebels to rise up, but then again, neither did the ordinary citizens of any other part of the country.

Waters points out that only two of the Proclamation signatories were from Dublin as part of his argument – but fails to tell us how many of the Volunteers or Citizen Army fighters were from Dublin. I don't know the figure, but would be surprised if it was not the majority.

The popularity of the rebellion in Dublin and the rest of the country is an important issue – one that has relevance today. The entirely implausible revisionist/anti-Dublin depiction is that Dubliners in 1916 were contented subjects of the Crown who were furious with the rebels but then did a remarkable volte face and became committed republicans when the leaders of the armed uprising they supposedly hated were executed.

They then went on to vote overwhelmingly for Sinn Féin at the 1918 election and the county, along with Cork, became the crucible of the War of Independence.

In this respect Dublin can claim to be less tied to the British Empire than most other non-Unionist parts of the country, John Waters' Roscommon included.

Go back to the 19th Century and you'll see that the vast majority of Dubliners, once given the vote, voted for nationalist parties.

Sinn Féin didn't achieve a clean sweep in Dublin in 1918 however, something that may give us a clue to the public hostility shown to the Rising and the Anglocentric tendencies still found in the county.

A man by the name of Maurice Dockrell was elected in the Dublin Rathmines constituency for the Irish Unionist Alliance in 1918. (His son, Henry, was elected to the Dáil for Dublin County in 1932 for Cumann na nGaedhael and later for Fine Gael).

Another notable politician is Bryan Cooper, a British Army officer who was elected to Westminster as a Unionist MP in 1910 for Dublin South and subsequently won a seat in the Dáil as an independent TD for Dublin County in 1923 and for Cumann na nGaedhael in 1927.

What many don't realise today is that Dublin had a Unionist community before independence, no different to Unionist communities in the North today, with members ranging from the liberal to the sectarian, remnants of which survive to this day.

As I mentioned earlier Dublin, in some ways, is more Anglocentric than other parts of the country.

The most obvious manifestation of this is the 'Dublin 4' accent – which started out as an attempt by people to sound more English and later added some American influences.

Another are the Hibernophobic Ross O'Carroll Kelly types found in Dublin.

Hostility to indigenous Irish culture is probably stronger in Dublin than other parts of the Republic, but this is a case of degrees, not absolutes - witness the success of the Dublin hurlers on Sunday and the narrow loss by the footballers the previous week, to give one example.

Regarding Dublin's working class, I've lived in republican west Belfast and can say that the Sun-reading, Premiership-following, Coronation Street-watching culture is as prevalent there as it is in the capital.

Where Waters is accurate is the Anglocentric nature of our media. To get an idea of this just compare the number of pro-Unionist commentators in the newspapers to the number of pro-Nationalist ones.

Where he is wrong however is claiming that commentary in the media is representative of Dubliners.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Colm!
    - a Corkman living in Limerick