Kevin Toolis

Life
Author of Rebel Hearts: Journeys within the IRA’s Soul (London: Picador 1996), 400pp.

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Quotations
Rebel Hearts: Journeys within the IRA’s Soul (London: Picador 1996): ‘As in the psychology of informing, this republican tenet of martyrdom is heavily influenced by the rites and liturgy of Irish of Catholicism. Catholic schoolchildren are daily taught that ‘Christ died for our sins’ and thus saved the human race. Christ's followers, his aposdes and saints, are venerated for upholding and dying for, being martyred for, the true faith. For republicans, dying for Ireland is a sacrificial act akin to those religious acts of Christian witness. Patriotism and self-sacrifice are synonymous and rooted deeply in the very fountainhead of modern republicanism, the men of Easter Week, the spiritual fathers of the current Irish Republic. […]; Pearse seemed to believe the Rising was a necessary blood sacnfice to sting the conscience of the vast, indifferent Irish majonty. On the same day, 1 May 1916, two days before his execution, Pearse wrote a poem, “A Mother Speaks”, in which he made the comparison between himself and the martyred Jesus Christ explicit[:] “Dear Mary, that didst see thy first-born Son/Go forth to die amid the scorn of men/For whom He died,/Receive my first-born son into thy arms,/Who also hath gone out to die for men,/And keep him by thee till I come to him./Dear Mary, I have shared thy sorrow,/And soon shall share thy joy.” /Pearse ran towards his own death in a drama of his own making. The Easter Rising was a political crucifixion with Pearse as Christ and Dublin as a modern-day Calvary. The British unconsciously, and predictably, fulfilled their role as the ignorant Romans and in the aftermath duly lined Pearse up against a wall in Kilmainham Jail, shot him, and completed the cycle. Pearse was a dangerous fanatic, a romantic with a callous disregard for the human consequences of his idealism. But he was right about his own martyrdom and the decisive symbolic power of the Easter Rising. Pearse's blood sacrifice transmognfied republican political fortunes and created the state of the Irish Republic. His martyrdom was both a blind denial of the existing political realiq of Crown rule in Ireland and an affirmation of the mythic republic to be. The manner of his death would inspire a select handful, scattered across the succeeding unborn generations, to take arms, kill and die gloriously in, and for, Ireland./For Irish Republicans, martyrdom is also a means of psychologically reordering the chain of defeat, the never ending stream of rebel failures, the dead volunteers, the blunders, the apathy of the vast Irish majority and the betrayals from within, inflicted upon them. It is a way of abstracting the war away from its grim, atavistic, pedestrian necessity and recasting it in the mould of Pearse's glorious Republic to be. […]’ (339-40.)

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