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Face up to atrocities of past wars, says Irish President

26 August 2016

PA

Remembering: the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, at the funeral of Dr Edward Daly, earlier this month

Remembering: the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, at the funeral of Dr Edward Daly, earlier this month

ATROCITIES carried out against citizens and families of different faiths by opposing factions in Ireland between 1916 and 1923 during the War of Independence and, after that, the Civil War, must not be forgotten as the country embarks on a series of commemorations marking the War of Independence and the ensuing civil conflict between pro- and anti-Treaty forces, the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, said on Sunday.

The Civil War erupted in 1922 on the signing of the Treaty accepting the partitioning of the country to create Northern Ireland (six counties) and the remainder as a Free State (26 counties); an arrangement vehemently opposed by the Republican side but supported by the pro-Treaty side, which won out on both counts.

President Higgins’s father, John, fought with the No. 2 Cork Brigade of the (old) IRA during the Independence War, and for the Republican (anti-Treaty) side in the Civil War, whereas his uncle, Peter, who had fought with the (old) IRA in Co. Clare went on to support the Free State side.

Mr Higgins said that as well as the devastation spread by the Auxiliary element of the British forces, Ireland would remember, too, how the RC minority in the north-east fell into the grip of sectarian violence.

He said that they would be required to face the ruthlessness of the IRA, the mistakes made in the killings of purported informers, and the outrages perpetrated during both wars against Protestants.

The commemorations, he said, must display “a generous willingness to go past old wrongs so as to build a new shared understanding of who we are as a national and as a Republic”.

He said that the atrocities of the Civil War must be recognised for what they were on both sides: “cruel, vicious, uncontrolled, and informed by vengeance rather than any compassion”. Instead, he said, commemorations must display “a generous willingness to go past old wrongs so as to build a new shared understanding of who we are as a national and as a Republic”.

The legacy of the Civil War continued to inform and define Irish history and society until quite recently, and vestiges of the resentment handed down through families on both sides are still evident.

The Irish government orchestrated the events surrounding the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising with a noted absence of triumphalism (unlike the 50th anniversary in 1966). It is now anxious to present a mature and reconciliatory commemoration of the events that occurred between 1916 and 1922 during the War of Independence and, after that, the Civil War. The latter erupted in 1922 on the signing of the Treaty accepting the partitioning of the country to create Northern Ireland (six counties) and the remainder as a Free State (26 counties); an arrangement vehemently opposed by the Republican side but supported by the pro-Treaty side, which won out on both counts.

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