ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remember Easter of 1916?

When the Irish Declared a Republic

Hundred years after the Irish declared a republic, the Easter Rising of 1916 remains a testament to both the feistiness and fallibility of the human spirit. This article recalls the emergence of a truly "rainbow coalition" from a fractious civic polity that would be emulated in other parts of the world with varying degrees of success.

I would like to thank Ranabir Samaddar for insights on the idea of the citizen-as-volunteer and Fleachta Phelan for sending me useful links on the 1916 commemorations going on in Ireland. The usual disclaimers apply

Perhaps, we have been too occupied by assaults on democracy back home in the Indian subcontinent, or maybe our capacity to extend solidarity to causes beyond the ones that hold our attention has been stretched to the limits. Either way, almost no university, political organisation or media house—the three institutions that have been involved in the recent debates around nationalism—has noticed that this March would have marked a hundred years (and some days) since the declaration of an Irish Republic on Easter 1916.

A few readers would immediately feel guilty, while most would wonder why people in the Indian subcontinent need to recall an event that took place a hundred years ago on a small island that is better known for producing poets, novelists and for many women and men educated in Roman Catholic schools, nuns and priests as well. The post-war German writer, Heinrich Böll, remarked that of all the countries in Western Europe, Ireland alone remained a colony of its larger, more powerful neighbour and did not send out armies to colonise other nations. Instead, for a country so small and impoverished (by 19th and early 20th century standards), it sent out an inordinate number of women and men to educate, administer, entertain and heal a world that was deeply divided by conflicts and colonialism.

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