The Athlone IRA Statue
Well, my posting on Northern Ireland has spawned a lot of conversations out here. I mentioned that Athlone has an IRA statue and it was pointed out to me that not all of the readers of this blog may understand that the IRA statue was erected for is NOT the modern IRA terrorists we hear so much about, but the soldiers who died to make possible the current sovereign Republic of Ireland. Comparing the two would be like comparing a more aggressive version of the Montana Freemen to George Washington.
The statue here in Athlone is dedicated to the Athlone brigade of the original Irish army who fought for independence from England, just like the US once did.
So, I took my trusty aul digital camera down to the middle of town and snapped some photos so ye can see it for yourselves.
First off, the statue has a couple of inscriptions, the first one is:
The second one specifies the reason for the statue and states, “In Commemoration To those members of the Irish Republican Army Athlone Brigade 1916-1921 who gave their lives in action against British Crown Forces – Killed In Action.”
As noble and good-willed as this is, it’s hard to talk about, because, the Irish army of 1916 was called the Irish Republican Army. When you say “IRA” today, people think, naturally enough, “terrorists.” What’s funny is I was so taken aback by the presence of the statue that I used to refer to it as a landmark to locals “you know, just past the IRA statue…” and quite often I’d get a quizzical look as if they were unaware of the statue’s presence.
Another odd thing folks, 2006 was the first year that modern Ireland celebrated its independence day publicly. Seriously. Can you imagine not having the 4th of July in the states? Since moving here I have always proudly made a big deal about celebrating the 4th of July, much to the bemusement and encouragement of the locals. When I asked about Irish independence day celebrations, most Irish folks would turn away uncomfortably mumbling something about not celebrating it due to “the troubles,” or claim that any celebration of “Irishness” should be reserved to March 17 (St Patrick’s Day).
So, 2006 was the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising and for the first time in 30 years(!), there was a parade.
I thought it was a great thing, personally. Ireland has a lot to be proud of, as a nation, and such sentiments shouldn’t be relegated to the unfortunately alchohol-steeped celebrations of Paddy’s day. Irishness and derrogatory stereotypes of Irishness spill onto the streets of the world on Paddy’s day – not exactly what men fought and died for, I’m sure (St Patrick himself must be doing the watusi in his grave over the way his saints day is celebrated nowadays). Imagine if on the 4th of July we all put on foam cowboy hats, fat suits and ignorant expressions while dancing around in Mickey Mouse costumes burning effigies of Native Americans. Just imagine. *shake of the head*
Critics of this year’s parade stated, that the Taoiseach (that’s the Irish word for “Prime Minister”) “wants his Fianna Fail party to reclaim its republican heritage from Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA.” Well, maybe they’re right. But the fact that there’s political parties having such disagreements in modern free Ireland means those forefathers of Irish independence succeeded – and they deserve a feckin parade for that. Every other country in the world does it, why not the Irish?