Higgins’s reflection on Civil War highlights edgy issues
President was right to speak of the need to recognise the atrocities committed by both sides
It should not be about a “positive tone”, however, but an appropriate tone. Of course commemorating the War of Independence and Civil War will create complications different to that of remembering 1916, but, as with the commemorations this year, there are also opportunities to broaden the parameters of our understanding, highlight new information, and expose propaganda masquerading as history, and deliberate selectiveness serving contemporary political needs at the expense of evidence and nuance.
Griffith had many noble traits, but he was also instinctively Anglophobic and occasionally racist and anti-Semitic and well-capable of personal abuse, deriding London-born Erskine Childers, an ardent Irish republican who opposed the Treaty, as a “damned Englishman”.
As Higgins highlighted, “no single side had the monopoly of either atrocity or virtue”, and this was true of words as well as actions. Childers was executed during the Civil War; his son, also Erskine, became the fourth president of Ireland in 1973. As president, Childers was subjected to systematic censorship; he had plenty to say about commemoration but was not allowed say it publicly. At least now, both citizens and their representatives can air their thoughts about legacy and commemoration more freely.
Remembering history your own way is one thing, rewriting history and making it up as you go along, is something entirely different. Ferriter is fully aware that Childers and Higgins opposed Republican Commemorations, and that veterans of the 1916 Rising were fined and imprisoned for attending the banned 60th anniversary commemoration, and he references these events in one of his own books. Higgins refers to the British army and RUC murder gangs responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Irish civilians as counter-terrorists. In other words, people like Máire Comerford were terrorists in his eyes, and so was Michael Collins, once upon a time..
Arthur Griffiths personal secretary and his solicitor were Jews, who are buried in the Jewish plot in the old Dolphins Barn graveyard. Griffith was a lot of things, but a real anti-Semite wouldn't have a Jew within a mile of him.
'In Ireland, however, we have ever seized upon mediocrities and made them our leaders; invested them in our minds with all the qualities we idealised, and then when we discovered that our leaders were not heroes but only common mortals, mediocrities, we abused them, or killed them, for failing to be any better than God made them.
Their failure dragged us down along with them because we had insisted that they were wiser than we were, and had stoned whoever declared them to be common mortals, and not all-wise geniuses. Our real geniuses and inspired apostles we never recognised, nor did we honour them. We killed them by neglect, or stoned them whilst they lived, and then went in reverent procession to their graves when they were dead.' - James Connolly
If he hadn't been snatched from us so young, he would be 126 today. I think the drink would have prevented him from becoming President or Taoiseach, but other than that the fella could've gone on to do anything, if you are foolish enough to believe that he was anything other than a ruthless assassin and a common mortal. Dan Breen said that he looked up to Collins as a God, because he believed that him and his kind, had lifted them out of slavery. Michael D Higgins is claiming that Collins would have been a lot of things:
'Many have speculated, too, on what Michael Collins would have thought of present circumstances. If I may instance just one of Michael Collins’ frequent references – his emphasis on the development of resources to satisfy a native frugality rather than any insatiable hunger for accumulation or ostentatious waste. I also believe that he would have had a flexible approach towards the decommissioning of arms.'
The grandson of the Irish National Army Officer who served under Collins and supported the Treaty, wrote the article about the Drumboe Martyrs, which contradicts Higgins claims with regard to Decommissioning. I think the wealth that Higgins has accumulated for himself, and the life of luxury he lives with 5,000 people sleeping outside and inside the gates of the Phoenix Park would have turned Collins stomach.