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73 Reimagining Commemoration A s can be surmised from my earlier reading of RTÉ’s centenary drama Rebellion, casting a critical eye over the commemorative events and activities that have taken place as part of Ireland’s decade of centenaries thus far is a relatively easy task. It is considerably more difficult and, for the purposes of this book, considerably more important to lay the foundations for alternative forms of commemoration; events and activities that shine a light on the untaken roads of the past. That said, I believe that a useful starting point for such a project is, in fact, our current commemorations . Therefore I will now proceed to take a fresh look at these commemorations. Rather than pick out events and activities to critique, however, I will pinpoint the aspects of the decade of centenaries that overlap with the kinds of critical histories and alternative concepts of historical change that have shaped the writing of this book. In this way I can go beyond mere abstract theorisation, providing actual examples of the kinds of practices and Commemoration 74 ideas upon which a truly radical commemorative process could be based. Turning to the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the range of events is itself of significance. Some ofthesewereorganisedbythestate,butmany,suchasthe commemorative activities associated with the Women of the South project, were designed and run by groups and individuals not directly connected to the state. The large number of small events that took place throughout the country, particularly south of the border, suggest that Irish people living in the Republic at least feel that they have a stake in the centenaries. Moreover, the holding of a plethora of small events is structurally much more suited than a larger ceremony to the project of reviving the decade we are currently commemorating in its multiple forms. These small events include the ones that made up RTÉ’s Reflecting the Rising, the stateassociated Easter Monday’s multitude of commemorative activities. Reflecting the Rising – comprised of talks, debates, concerts, walking tours, dramatisations, dance,filmscreenings,exhibitions,andsoon–tookplace in over two hundred locations throughout Dublin city. Thestructureofthatday’scommemorations–spreadout, decentralised, democratised – ensured that the Easter Monday celebrations were automatically more attuned than the larger Easter Sunday event to that which is at the margins of conventional history writing. The large numbers of small commemorative events held in 2016 are not the only indicator that Irish people feel that they have a stake in the centenaries. Even the 75 reimagining COMMEMORATION popularity of Rising kitsch – the T-shirts, key rings, calendars, and so on referred to in the opening pages of this book – point to a desire for some form of personal connection to the period in Irish history we are currently commemorating. It would be easy to dismiss these objects en masse and their purchase as yet one more example of inappropriate commodification, the assignment of economic value to something that should not be conceived in economic terms, but surely the urge to own these items is, at least in part, an urge for ownership of the Rising and the interpretation of its meaning? This is perhaps the same urge that compelled so many people to get involved in the campaign to save 16 Moore Street and surrounding houses from demolition. It was to these houses that some of the Rising leaders retreated from the burning GPO in the final hours of the Rising. It is where they met for the last time before their execution. Consequently the Moore Street houses can be considered the last headquarters of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic. What the popularity of this campaign suggests is that, for many, the Rising and its legacies ultimately belong to Irish people. It was perhaps an awareness of this sense of ownership that prompted the Irish Times to publish an article on April Fool’s Day 2017 on the purchase of Liberty Hall by a company connected to Donald Trump. The article included details on the transformation of the iconic building into a five-star hotel, bearing Trump’s name, with an open-air putting green on the top floor, and cited a very plausible Trump tweet regarding the business deal: Commemoration 76 ‘Bought a small tower in Dublin, Ireland. We are going to build an awesome hotel in Dublin. It will be totally great! Love Ireland! Great country!’145 The humour of the piece, of course, relies on a general awareness that any attempt to Trumpify that particular ‘small...


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