25/02/2016

Caveat lector!

Feileann an ghné don ábhar

Foilsíodh an Princeton History of Modern Ireland i lár na míosa seo caite. Tá caibidil liom féin ann agus chaitheas coicís ag léamh na gcaibidlí eile—nuair a bhíonn aiste liom i gcló faoi chlúdach crua bím ar bís leis na haistí ‘béal dorais’ a léamh. Mar a tharlaíonn sé, táim thar a bheith sásta leis an gcomhluadar an babhta seo. Thugas suntas ar leith don ráiteas seo a leanas sa réamhrá a scríobh Richard Bourke, duine de na heagarthóirí:
Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have their roots in popular militancy. The last generation of historians sought to question the justification for this political stance. This could lend their writing a degree of urgency as well as a didactic tone. At times the temptation was to blame rather than to explain what was not approved. This volume sets about incorporating the insights of earlier scholarship while moving beyond the more admonitory approach sometimes adopted by precursors.
Bourke agus McBride (eagarthóirí), The Princeton History of Modern Ireland
(Princeton, 2016), 2.
Tá bunús maith leis an méid sin. Is cinnte go bhfuil laghdú tagtha ar an tseanmóireacht staire le fiche éigin bliain anuas. Roinnt de na seanmóirithe ab ardghlóraí tráth, táid ar shlí na fírinne anois. Roinnt eile acu atá beo i gcónaí, tuigeann siad go bhfuil an phréitseáil as faisean le tamall agus b’fhearr leo a bheith marbh ná neamhfhaiseanta. Maidir leis an nglúin óg staraithe atá suas anois, tá cur chuige níos gairmiúla acu. B’éasca a cheapadh gurbh ionann ré na seanmóirí staire agus ré na gcaiséad fuaime: tháinig an dá earra ar an saol sna seascaidí, scaipeadar go rábach sna seachtóidí, bhíodar fós flúirseach sna hochtóidí, ach chuadar i léig go tapa sna nóchaidí agus is beag duine atá faoi bhun tríocha bliain d’aois a thug cluas dóibh riamh. Tá cúrsaí níos casta ná sin, áfach. Níl na seanmóirithe chomh líonmhar is a bhídís, ach tá ceird na seanmóireachta staire fós á cleachtadh ag roinnt seanfhondúirí thall is abhus. Ghríosaigh na cuimhneacháin oifigiúla ar Éirí Amach na Cásca atá ar siúl faoi láthair iad le bior a chur ar a gcleití agus seo chugainn arís iad ag olagón, ag díspeagadh agus ag sciolladh mar a dheinidís fadó. Ina dhiaidh sin is uile, tá tuairim agam nach bhfuil anseo ach samhradh beag na ngéanna don tseanmóireacht staire. Tá na seanmóirithe scothaosta anois agus is baolach nach mbeidh an reitric cháinteach is dual dóibh le cloisteáil i gceann fiche bliain eile. Sílim gur mithid roinnt samplaí dá saothar a thiomsú agus a chaomhnú anseo, d’fhonn go mbeadh cuimhne i bpoll éigin orthu mar is ródhócha nach mbeidh a leithéidí arís ann.

'Mindless and counter-productive violence ... we should be ashamed ... deeply saddening ...'

     Is í Carla King, léachtóir staire in Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath, údar na chéad seanmóra, seanmóir a bhí le léamh ar leathanach na litreacha san Irish Times, an 4 Lúnasa 2015:
Sir, – Historians often find it useful to consider figures from the past in relation to their contemporaries. Michael Davitt, the founder of the Land League, habitually referred to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa as “O’Donovan Assa”, describing him as “the buffoon in Irish revolutionary politics with no advantage to himself but with terrible consequences to the many poor wretches who acted the Sancho Panza to his more than idiotic Don Quixote”.
     Like Davitt, O’Donovan Rossa served a long prison term during which he suffered terrible cruelty. However, the experience did not make him a stronger person; some believed that it made him mentally unbalanced and for the remainder of his life he battled with alcoholism.
     Accepting a conditional pardon in January 1871, O’Donovan Rossa settled in New York where he took up a position at the violent end of Irish nationalism, fostering a bombing campaign that extended through the 1880s and sabotaged efforts by constitutional Irish leaders to win British political and public support for Home Rule.
     In 1882 his refusal to condemn the Phoenix Park assassinations drew from another ex-prisoner, the Fenian John O’Leary, the comment that “the time when O’Donovan Rossa had any claim to represent any appreciable section of the Fenians is long past”. His paper, the United Irishman, and his “bombing school” at Brooklyn acted as magnets for extreme nationalists and were carefully watched by the British secret service. In 1887 Davitt held that O’Donovan Rossa “wittingly or unwittingly led other would-be conspirators into traps where they were condemned to long prison terms . . . His office in New York has been a veritable mousetrap for the British Consul”.
     Above all, O’Donovan Rossa’s policy of terrorism (he enthusiastically espoused the term) in which ordinary English civilians, including children, were murdered simply alienated the public, undermining sympathy hard won through the efforts of Parnell, Davitt and others. At one point O’Donovan Rossa speculated about the possibility of releasing poison gas in the House of Commons, in which a sympathetic prime minister, Gladstone, would struggle to enact Home Rule for Ireland.
     Then there is the moral perspective – while O’Donovan Rossa is a figure for whom we can feel some pity, his philosophy, with its commitment to mindless and counter-productive violence, launched a tradition of which we should be ashamed.
     It is therefore deeply saddening that, at a time when the Irish Government and people are loud in our support of reconciliation after the experience of decades of bombing campaigns in British and Irish cities, the first act in our official commemoration of the 1916 events is to honour a man who dedicated his life to attempts to bomb his way to Irish independence. – Yours, etc,
CARLA KING,
History Department,
St Patrick’s College,
Drumcondra,
Dublin 9.
Tá cuid mhaith de thréithe sainiúla na seanmóra staire le fáil sa sampla thuas: mar atá, ionsaithe ad hominem; cáineadh ar bhonn na moráltachta; naimhdeas i leith dreamanna áirithe agus comhbhá i leith dreamanna eile; an tuairim go mbeadh cúrsa na staire níos socra murach gur tharla na rudaí a tharla. Tabhair faoi deara chomh maith go bhfuil roinnt tréithe in easnamh a mbeifí ag súil leo in aiste le staraí: mar atá, cáiréis, cothroime, cruinneas. Buntéis na litreach—gur eagraíodh searmanas oifigiúil an 4 Lúnasa anuraidh chun ómós a léiriú don Donnabhánach—tá sí mícheart. D’éag Ó Donnabháin Rosa i Nua-Eabhrac, an 29 Meitheamh 1915, ach níor cuireadh abhus é go dtí an 1 Lúnasa. Beartaíodh an searmanas stáit mar chuimhneachán ar an tsochraid úd i reilig Ghlas Naíon toisc go n-aithnítear í mar chéim thábhachtach sna hullmhúcháin i gcomhair an Éirí Amach. Is caolchúiseach an t-idirdhealú é sin, gan amhras, ach is mór le staraithe an chaolchúis; a mhalairt atá fíor i gcás na seanmóirithe.

' Immoral ... wanton violence ... anti-democratic'



     Is é Tom Dunne, iar-ollamh le stair i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh, a thug an dara seanmóir ó chrannóg an Irish Times, an 7 Eanáir 2016:
Sir, – I agree with Patsy McGarry’s courageous and well-argued contention that the 1916 Rising “was an immoral and anti-democratic act”, and with Felix Larkin (January 4th) that the Irish State should date its origins not to the Rising but to the 1918 general election and the first meeting of the democratically elected Dáil in 1919 – “orderly political events, not wanton violence”.
     Its continued failure to do so can be traced back to the fact that while they won the parliamentary vote on the Treaty, and the subsequent election (defending that mandate in the Civil War), the democratic parties nevertheless ceded the rhetorical high ground to their opponents, and were determined to prove themselves to be equally “nationalist” and “republican”, and to be the true heirs of the Rising, in which, of course, many of them had participated.
     Thus, sadly, from the beginning our democracy has continued to promote an anti-democratic message, and continues to do so despite the clear lessons of “republican” violence in recent decades in Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,
TOM DUNNE,
Professor Emeritus of History,
University College Cork.
Bhí cúpla fíric scaipthe tríd an tseanmóir a thug an Dr King ach níl an rian is lú den eolas ná den léann le brath ar an téacs thuas: seanmóireacht ghlan is ea é ó thús go deireadh. Moladh an daonlathas (.i. ‘δημοκρατία’ nó ‘daon-fhlaitheas’) agus cáineadh an tÉirí Amach mar ghníomh frith-dhaonlathach. Níor míníodh dúinn cad is daonlathas ann, áfach. An amhlaidh go raibh Impireacht na Breataine daonlathach sa bhliain 1916? Nó an amhlaidh go raibh córas rialaithe na hÉireann daonlathach ag an am? Má bhí an daonlathas i réim in Éirinn, cérbh iad an ‘δῆμος’ (pobal) a raibh flaitheas na tíre ina lámha an tráth úd? Mura raibh an daonlathas i réim, nár chruinne a rá go raibh an tÉirí Amach frith-fhrith-dhaonlathach? Glacann an t-ollamh leis go raibh an chéad Dáil daonlathach, ach conas a tharla sé gurbh iad ‘frith-dhaonlathaithe’ na bliana 1916 a chuir parlaimint dhaonlathach ar bun níos lú ná trí bliana dár gcionn? Ar tháinig athrú meoin orthu idir an dá linn? Nó an amhlaidh gur bhunaigh frith-dhaonlathaithe parlaimint dhaonlathach i ngan fhios dóibh féin? Is í an chéad Dáil foinse an stáit, dar le Dunne, ach is é an chéad rud a deineadh ag an gcéad chruinniú den chéad Dáil ná forógra neamhspleáchais a eisiúint. Seo sliocht as an gcáipéis sin:
De bhrigh gur dual do mhuinntir na hÉireann bheith n-a saor náisiún ... Agus de bhrigh go ndeárna Saor-Arm na hÉireann Saorstát Éireann d’fhorfhógairt i mBaile Átha Cliath Seachtmhain na Cásca 1916 ar son muinntire na hÉireann ... Ar an adhbhar son deinimídne .i. na teachtaí atá toghtha ag muinntir na hÉireann agus sinn i nDáil Chomhairle i dteannta a chéile, bunughadh Saorstáit d’áth-dheimhniughadh i n-ainm náisiún na hÉireann agus sinn féin do chur fá gheasaibh an deimhniughadh so do chur i bhfeidhm ar gach slighe ar ár gcumas.
Is é sin le rá, d’áitigh parlaimint dhaonlathach na bliana 1919 go raibh ‘frith-dhaonlathaigh’ na bliana 1916 ag gníomhú ‘ar son muinntire na hÉireann’ agus níor dheineadar féin ach forógra neamhspleáchais na bliana 1916 a ‘athdheimhniú’. Más í Dáil na bliana 1919 foinse an stáit, agus más é Éirí Amach na bliana 1916 foinse na Dála sin, nach mbeadh sé mímhacánta a shéanadh gurb é an tÉirí Amach bunfhoinse an stáit? Nó an amhlaidh go gceapann an t-ollamh gur chóir fíricí staire nach réitíonn lena dhearcadh féin a cheilt? Léiríonn sé seo ceann eile de thréithe na seanmóra staire: ní bhíonn sí loighciúil. Má bhraitheann éifeacht na staireagrafaíochta ar eolas cruinn agus ar réasúnaíocht chothrom, braitheann éifeacht na seanmóireachta staire ar cháineadh ainmheasartha agus ar mhoráltachas mí-aimseartha.

'Thousands of lives would have been saved ...'
     Is é Geoffrey Roberts, atá ina ollamh le stair i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh, a scríobh an tríú seanmóir chuig eagarthóir an Irish Times. Foilsíodh í an 19 Eanáir 2016:
Sir, – Conn Mac Gabhann’s use of the so-called just war principles to legitimise the Easter Rising is tendentious in the extreme, no more so than in his omission of the most important principle – the principle of last resort, the absence of alternatives to military action (“Did the 1916 Rising meet the requirements for a ‘just war’?”, Opinion & Analysis, January 16th).
     The alternative to a violent uprising in 1916 was the strategy that had been pursued by generations of constitutional nationalists – the peaceful and democratic struggle for Irish independence.
     That strategy had been prolonged but highly successful and culminated with the passing of the Home Rule Bill in 1914, which meant there would be an independent Ireland after the first World War.
     As former taoiseach John Bruton has argued on many occasions, the violence of the Rising and the War of Independence was not necessary to achieve Irish independence. There was a non-violent alternative and thousands of lives would have been saved by sticking to constitutional politics. It is unlikely that the sectarian division of Ireland would have been averted but it could have been ameliorated and the path to Irish unity opened decades ago.
     The only justification for war is necessity and the Easter Rising fails that test. – Yours, etc,
Prof GEOFFREY ROBERTS,
School of History,
University College Cork.
Tá na comharthaí sóirt go léir le feiscint sa sampla seo. Arís eile, caitheadh fíricí míchaoithiúla i dtraipisí agus cumadh síscéal chun ceacht moráltachta a mhúineadh do léitheoirí an Irish Times. De réir insint Roberts, bhí sé i gceist ag rialtas na Breataine neamhspleáchas a bhronnadh ar Éirinn nuair a chriochnaigh an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda—murach gur ... well, aisteach go leor, níor mhínigh sé cén fáth nár tugadh neamhspleáchas d’Éirinn ag deireadh an chogaidh. An amhlaidh gur chuir an tÉirí Amach an oiread sin díomá ar cheannairí na Breataine gur athraigh siad an polasaí a bhí beartaithe acu? Ach is fantaisíocht ghlan é sin. Ní raibh sé riamh i gceist ag an mBreatain stát neamhspleách a bhunú in Éirinn. Is Sasanach é Roberts agus tá cúpla leabhar scríofa aige ar an Aontas Sóivéadach i ré Stalin. Cé nach múineann sé stair na hÉireann, tá dóthain ama caite aige cois Laoi chun smeadar éigin eolais a chur ar an ábhar. An ráiteas sin uaidh (‘there would be an independent Ireland after the first World War’) is léiriú maith é ar chur chuige na seanmóirithe: ní hamháin go ndéanann siad neamhshuim d’fhíricí nach n-oireann dá soiscéal, ach ní leasc leo fíricí na staire a chur as a riocht nuair is gá. D’fhéadfadh tiománaithe tacsaí agus bearbóirí Chorcaí a mhíniú don ollamh le stair nach raibh trácht ar neamhspleáchas a thabhairt d’Éirinn roimh an Éirí Amach ná ina dhiaidh. Is é an rud a bhí faoi chaibidil an uair úd ná fo-pharlaimint réigiúnach laistigh den Ríocht Aontaithe a bhunú i mBaile Átha Cliath—fo-pharlaimint ar aon dul, mórán, leis an gceann a bhí acu thíos in Stormont idir 1921 agus 1972. An n-éireodh na Briotanaigh níos solúbtha le himeacht aimsire? Cá bhfios; ní bhaineann an stair le rudaí nár thit amach. Níor mhiste a lua, áfach, gur cuireadh tús le feachtas treallchogaíochta in oileán Eorpach eile chun deireadh a chur le réimeas na Breataine beagnach daichead bliain tar éis Éirí Amach na Cásca. Seo sliocht as Cyprus Today, iris a fhoilsíonn an Roinn Oideachas agus Cultúir i bPoblacht na Cipire:
After the failure of non-violent attempts to gain self-determination, the Cypriots began an armed rebellion on 1 April 1955 ... The aim of the armed struggle was not to push the British off the island by force, but rather to make it too difficult and dangerous for them to stay. In the end, the strategy worked ... only the armed struggle forced the British to grant the Cypriots some measure of self-determination.
Cyprus Today, imleabhar XLIII, Aibreán-Meitheamh 2005, 6.
An bolscaireacht pholaitiúil é seo? Ní bheinn ag súil lena mhalairt ó roinn rialtais i dtír ar bith, ach ní léir dom go bhfuil sé pioc níos measa ná litir Roberts. Níl sé mórán níos fearr, ach an oiread, mar níor fhág na Briotanaigh an Chipir riamh: tá dhá bhunáit mhíleata (‘sovereign base areas’) acu i gcónaí arb ionann iad agus a trí faoin gcéad de thalamh an oileáin.

Níor dhiúltaigh páipéar do dhúch riamh.



     Is é cúram an staraí staidéar a dhéanamh ar na foinsí príomha agus cuntas chomh cruinn cuimsitheach agus is féidir a sholáthar dá léitheoirí. Más scoláire fónta é, beidh an taighde críochnúil, an tuairisciú macánta, an réasúnaíocht loighciúil, agus na breitheanna tomhaiste. Ní bheidh de chuspóir aige ach tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar dhream éigin a bhí ann romhainn agus ar an linn inar mhaireadar. Ní haon chuid de chúram an staraí é pearsa stairiúil a mheas mar chaora nó mar ghabhar, ná gluaiseacht stairiúil a áireamh mar dhea-rud nó mar dhrochrud, ná ceachtanna moráltachta a mhúineadh don phobal—ná teachtaireacht don todhchaí a chur ina luí orthu ach chomh beag. Na litreacha thuas a foilsíodh ar an Irish Times, ní leis an staireagrafaíocht a bhaineann siad ach leis an bpolaitíocht. Tá an ceart céanna ag an staraí tuairimí polaitiúla a bheith aige agus atá ag an tiománaí tacsaí nó ag an mbearbóir, ar ndóigh, ach má bhuaileann fonn é chun óráid bholscaireachta a thabhairt ó chrannóg an Irish Times, nó ó ardán poiblí eile, ba chóir go mbeadh sé soiléir do chách gur ag labhairt ina cháilíocht mar shaoránach (nó mar ghéillsineach den ríocht bhéal dorais) atá sé. Dá síneodh ‘Ms Carla King’, ‘Mr Tom Dunne’ agus ‘Mr Geoffrey Roberts’ na litreacha thuas ní bheadh siad faoi chaibidil agam anseo; le bheith fírinneach, is dóichí ná a mhalairt nach léifinn iad. Ach nuair a luaitear roinn ollscoile agus dintiúr acadúil ag bun ráitis pholaitiúil, cuirtear in iúl go bhfuil údarás ar leith ag baint leis an téacs nach mbainfeadh leis dá mba thiománaí tacsaí nó gruagaire a scríobh. Nuair a thuigtear nach amhlaidh atá, tarraingítear amhras an phobail ar staraithe i gcoitinne.

     Ach b’fhéidir gur maith an rud é sin: tá sé inmholta don léitheoir bheith san airdeall i gcónaí.