IRISH PRESIDENT STIRS NEW CONTROVERSY
Irish President Mary McAleese drew a sharp rebuke from at least one commentator on the Irish political scene for her remarks Friday praising the men and women of the '16 Rising.
"Mrs. McAleese has taken risks for peace but now plays with fire," Irish News columnist Roy Garland wrote in the Belfast-based newspaper's Monday edition. "Coming in the wake of her comments -– subsequently retracted –- that Protestants raised children to hate Catholics as Nazis hated Jews, her words are disturbing. She would be wise to meditate upon fascist elements within early republicanism."
Belfast native McAleese, seen right in a government handout, spoke on the Rising to help launch a conference, titled "The Long Revolution: The 1916 Rising in Context" at University College Cork. She offered a lengthy and thoughtful reflection on the Rising's significance, stating in part, "In the hearts of those who took part in the Rising, in what was then an undivided Ireland, was an unshakeable belief that, whatever our personal political or religious perspectives, there was huge potential for an Ireland in which loyalist, republican, unionist, nationalist, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, agnostic pulled together to build a shared future, owned by one and all."
Earlier, she stated, "Paradoxically in the longer run, 1916 arguably set in motion a calming of old conflicts with new concepts and confidence which, as they mature and take shape, stand us in good stead today. Our relationship with Britain, despite the huge toll of the Troubles, has changed utterly. In this, the year of the 90th anniversary of the Rising, the Irish and British governments, co-equal sovereign colleagues in Europe, are now working side by side as mutually respectful partners, helping to develop a stable and peaceful future in Northern Ireland based on the Good Friday Agreement.
"That agreement asserts equal rights and equal opportunities for all Northern Ireland’s citizens. It ends forever one of the Rising’s most difficult legacies, the question of how the people of this island look at partition."
Garland, though, sees danger in McAleese's raising of the specter of "the terrorism of the small physical force minority of 1916."
"Mrs McAleese says of 1916 'heroes' that 'their deaths rise above the clamour –- their voices insistent still.' Thankfully, their lust for blood is at the moment only a whisper and the dogs of war are silent.
"But their legacy is the utter decimation of the southern unionist community, the cowering of many 26-county Protestants, partition and fratricidal strife in the north.
Garland, seen above, concludes: "Dismal ancestral voices have gained electoral success and Fianna Fail tries to restrain the spirit of 1916 by patronising its ghosts. But wiser and quieter voices urge us to reject blood and sacrificial nationalism in favour of a more peaceful and prosperous world that can accommodate increasingly diverse and free human beings.
We have found this a thought-provoking exchange, one that suggests the divide between nationalists and unionists remains vast. Please share your views on the issue here on the blog, and vote in our poll, as well. We also urge you to share your thoughts with President McAleese and Mr. Garland, as well.
OSCAR NODS AT 'CINDERELLA MAN': The nominations are in, and while it appears there are no Irish-born benefactors, the Oscar nods announced this morning do invite us to again consider two notable Irish figures. "Cinderella Man," as WGT's contributing editor Bobby Cassidy explains, is the cinematic version of the inspiring story of Irish-American boxing champ James J. Braddock. The film, directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe, drew three nominations, one for Best Supporting Actor for Paul Giamatti, and others for film editing and makeup. Meanwhile, Aussie Heath Ledger, 26, seen left with Orlando Bloom, was nominated for Best Lead Actor for his performance in "Brokeback Mountain." Ledger portrayed Australian legend Ned Kelly in the 2003 film "Ned Kelly," co-starring with Bloom, Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts and past Oscar winner and fellow Australian Geoffrey Rush. (You can buy DVD copies of both films here and support WGT in the process.)
'BLOODY SUNDAY' RITES DRAW THOUSANDS: UTV's website reports that several thousand took to the streets of Derry on Sunday to mark the 34th anniversary of the killing of 13 innocent civilians by members of the Parachute Regiment on Jan. 30, 1972. The network notes that the march was likely the final one before the Bloody Sunday inquiry, headed by Lord Saville, reports the findings of its £150 million hearing, "the longest inquiry in British legal history."