Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:39 pm
I don't have the local knowledge to comment on the purely Irish aspect of views on how the centenaries of the events of 1916 ought to be marked there, nor whether the Somme and the Easter rising can realistically be reconciled in public commemorations. It does seem to me, however, that there's merit in the suggestion made here that if goverment direction on this is going to be forthcoming, then it might be more appropriate to come from the devolved Assembly of Northern Ireland and the Irish government, rather than Westminster.
As to depaor01's query as to whether there is any contention on the UK mainland as to how the Great War centenaries ought to be commemorated, I think the answer is that we will find thare is. I would be very surprised, for instance, if the centenary of the first day of the Somme doesn't see some kind of campaigns akin to the ludicrous one mounted by the Daily Express on the 90th anniversary, to have Haig's statue in Whitehall melted down as he was a 'murderer' of his own men. I think, too, the element of mourning will be almost totally predominant in commemorations, with little or no recognition or celebration of the achievement of a very dearly bought but necessary victory. You can see the direction of official thinking on this in the comments by Hugo Swire, the Tory Northern Ireland Office Minister in the linked to article, where he states that "as we move towards a decade of anniversaries we should think of commemoration rather than celebration". This is a trend which was objected to by many of the men who actually fought the war a decade or so later, as I noted in another thread some time ago:
The generation which originally established these ceremonies after the Great War - ie the generation who fought and survived it, and those who lost their loved ones to it - had a wider agenda than the tone and formal structure of what has evolved into today's events would suggest. Many of them, indeed, felt that elements of 'their' day had been hijacked and squeezed out. It was not the element of religion per se which Great War front line combat veterans such as Charles Carrington blamed for this so much as an element of officialdom within the British Legion. Carrington and his cronies had happily gone along with a formal element on the early Armistice Days, but considered that this formal remembrance of their chums who didn't make it ought to be followed by a celebratory element in recognition of what they and their mates had achieved and won in such a hard fought and costly manner. That element has been entirely lost today, of course, and many would be surprised to learn that it had ever existed. But it did. Here's Carrington:
"Nothing could have been more decorous than the British Legion when it had united the various groups; too decorous as some old swaddies thought. The first Armistice Day had been a carnival; the second Armistice Day, after its solemn pause at the Two Minutes' Silence which King George V was believed to have initiated, was a day of festivity again. For some years I was one of a group of friends who met, every Armistice Day, at the Cafe Royal for no end of a party, until we began to find ourselves out of key with the new age. Imperceptibly, the Feast-Day became a Fast-Day and one could hardly go brawling on the Sabbath. The do-gooders captured the Armistice, and the British Legion seemed to make its principal outing a day of mourning. To march to the Cenotaph was too much like attending one's own funeral, and I know many old soldiers who found it increasingly discomforting, year by year. We preferred our reunions in private with no pacifist propaganda."
I imagine that the centeneries will continue the predominance of funereal commemoration, which the likes of Carrington and his chums thought told only half of their story, with the impression of futile waste blanketing any hint that there was also an achievement involved.