The cult of death

The late Horseman wrote that the Irish language is the First National Hypocrisy. But Ireland does not lack for hypocrisies. The Irish state is founded on the greatest hypocrisy of them all.

On Saturday a republican splinter group with no electoral mandate marched down O’Connell Street, to the outrage of the entire country. Not 24 hours later that same entire country commemorated and celebrated the armed rebellion of a republican splinter group with no electoral mandate.

Dissident republicans commit murder in Derry in 2019 and we condemn them. Dissident republicans commit murder in 1916 and we treat them as national heroes.

How can we teach our young that the unelected, self-appointed defenders of Ireland in 1916 were noble, but that the unelected, self-appointed defenders of Ireland in 2019 are criminals? Every political party in this state, every educator, every state officer is complicit in this great hypocrisy. The state was born of murder, and when we fail to honestly confront our murderous past we give comfort to those who still believe in it.

Every single republican political party in Ireland celebrates their own history of political violence. Every one of them draws the line between acceptable and unacceptable political violence conveniently under the date that they entered government. For Fine Gael, murder and assassination became wrong in 1922, for Fianna Fáil it was a few years later. For Sinn Féin murder became wrong in 2007. Saoradh differs only in that their dividing line is yet to be crossed.

It is not the dissidents who are drowning in their own doublethink, it is us.

What does our shameless hypocrisy say to today’s generation of republicans? It tells them that in the future, when they gain power and become the government, they too can get the state to retrospectively declare their own murders to be a regrettable necessity and other murders to be an attack on democracy. They too can preemptively invoke their fantasy future to absolve them of their actual present, in the sure and certain faith that history will one day vindicate them.


The cycle of death in Ireland will not stop until we stop teaching the cult of death that sustains it. If political murder is wrong today, then it was wrong in the past. If killing a fellow human being in cold blood is unthinkable today, then it must always have been unthinkable. If we cannot commit ourselves to this simple moral truth, then we condemn future generations to the same cycle of violence and hypocrisy that our generation and every generation before it has suffered through.

Stop telling the story of brave Irishmen killing other Irishmen in the name of Ireland. Stop honouring those who loved Ireland so much that they gave it the gift of death. Strike their names from history, tear down their monuments and burn their works; for they are false gods.

Honour only those who loved Ireland so much they could never harm a soul.

(This blog was originally published on Slugger)

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