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Small-Scale Question Sunday for December 4, 2022

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

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Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

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So, what are you reading?

Still on Dorian Gray. It's certainly an experience.

The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, tells the story of the seven signatories of the 'Proclamation of The Republic', the people who led the Easter Rising of 1916: Thomas J. Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh. P. H. Pearse. Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

I'd disagree somewhat with them being called the 'Founding Fathers' given that they were all dead before the Irish Free State was formed, but they certainly inspired a lot of people and got the ball rolling on violent resistance. And 'trying to get the ball rolling' well describes a good portion of their lives, the popularity violent resistance was at a low point at the turn of the century as Irish nationalists were making significant gains working within the system (or in the case of boycotts and rent strikes, partially within it). Nevertheless they started newspapers, travelled to America to procure funds from sympathetic Irish-Americans, groomed protégés, subverted other nationalist organisations to their ends, waited for the right moment to strike, and eventually got their wish of emulating nationalist heroes like Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone in being sentenced to death after a failed rebellion.

One thing the book doesn't do is try to justify their ambitions. The term 'Anglophobic' is used a lot, and you get the impression that all it took was for them to be radicalised by a school teacher or parent for an unshakeable hatred of Britain to be formed* although the spectrum ranges from uncomplicated radical and would-be terrorist Thomas J. Clarke, to Patrick Pearse, half-English romantic and intellectual who was known to James Joyce (who disliked him) and W.B Yeats. Pearse is also one of the best writers I have found as a result of this dive into history, alongside Terence MacSwiney.

Clarke's spell in jail provides a good example of the predicament Irish-nationalists posed from the British side: execute them and they become martyrs, exile them and they either escape or stir up trouble abroad, imprison them and they become sympathetic figures who clearly aren't the real culprits according to the newspapers and MPs courting the Irish vote (this was a thing in Britain just as it was in America), let them out of prison after 15 years and they seem to be just as single-mindedly devoted to being your enemy as they were in their 20s.

The second Boer war gets mentioned a lot too. Clarke's father was a British army sergeant in South Africa until the family returned to Ireland in 1865, but by the time the events of the book were taking place Irish opinion was firmly on the side of the Boers (the "Fusilier's Arch" in Dublin dedicated to the members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boer War is also known as the "Traitor's Gate"), Clarke even named his dog Kruger.

I still have to get through reading about Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett which I'm looking forward to.

*Alexander Martin Sullivan's The Story of Ireland was an apparent favourite among schoolteachers at the time, and was enough to convice Dan Breen and his friends to set up a basically autonomous IRA squad as soon as they were finished school. Iirc it was torn apart by later Irish historians but I'd like to read it to see if it's where Breen got the strange phrasing he uses when he describes people selling out for the 'Saxon gold'. I'm surprised the British authorities let teachers get away with that stuff, but then again I'm not sure how much teaching was done in the National Schools (which Pearse accuses of trying to mold people into good English boys) and how much was done unofficially.