Slouching Towards Bantry

A journey is a hallucination. -- Flann O'Brien

Monday, February 27, 2006

Politics Eireann 101


Leinster House, seat of the Irish government in Dublin.

The best way of beginning to understand Irish politics and history is through the news (of course, you have to take into account the conservative bias in the mainstream media that is similar to the US). The following snippet culled from today's Irish Times relates to Saturday's riot on O'Connell Street:

... The Taoiseach dismissed reports that rioters had been "bused in" to the city, saying they were predominantly local people.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who was in Dublin for the march, was among those claiming that Sinn Féin activists were involved in the rioting.

"The police confirmed to us that a number of Sinn Féin activists were involved. Clearly the Sinn Féin leadership is not in control of these people," he said.

The chairman of the committee organising the 1916 commemoration parade on Easter Sunday, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea, said he was determined that "similar elements will not be able to hijack the event". ...

*Taoiseach is the Irish prime minister. Bernie Ahern is the current taoiseach (pronounced TEE-shock). Ahern is a member of the ruling Fianna Fail political party. Fianna Fail was created by Eamon De Valera, a leader of the War of Independence against England in the early 20th Century. Fianna Fail translates into English as Soldiers of Destiny.

* DUP is the acronym for Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is a right-wing political party in Northern Ireland founded by Protestant loyalist extremist Ian Paisley, who is still active in Northern Ireland politics.

* Sinn Fein, (prononced SHIN-fane) translates into English as "Ourselves Alone." It is the only political party active in both the 26 southern counties of the republic and in UK-controlled Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein, which is often associated with the Irish Republican Army, continues to advocate for the unification of the island under one government.

The Irish Civil War involved a split between de Valera and Michael Collins, another leader of the War of Independence, culminating in Collins' assassination in 1922. Prior to the split, Collins (known as "The Big Fellow") had been sent to England by de Valera to neogotiate a peace treaty with England. The resulting treaty allowed for England to continued occupation of the northern six counties of Ulster, which de Valera opposed. In 1926, de Valera formally disassociated himself and his followers from Sinn Fein and formed the Fianna Fail. De Valera, who became the longstanding leader of the republic, is believed to have taken political advantage of the civil war to consolidate power. Theories persist that he may have also been responsible for Collins' death.

*On Easter 1916, republican forces made up of the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army attacked the British, taking over the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin and announcing the formation of a provisional government of the Irish Republic. They surrendered in less than a week. In short order, 15 leaders of the insurrection were summarily executed by the British, which turned public opinion in favor of the rebels and soldified support for the coming War of Independence.

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