Saturday, 2 April 2016

Michael Portillo's documentary "Easter 1916: the Enemy Files" fails to draw parallels with what happened later in the North of Ireland or identify the British tendency toward historical amnesia

Michael Portillo's documentary Easter 1916: the Enemy Files looked at the rebellion in Ireland from the British point of view. The programme was comprehensive but could have been so much better had it not demonstrated that great British quality of historical amnesia.

So Portillo could dwell on the successive execution of the rebel leaders but failed to draw a parallel with how his former boss Margaret Thatcher would repeat the mistakes with the republican hunger strikers in the early 1980s.

Similarly, there was what became known as the “North King Street massacre” when soldiers following the orders of Brigadier-General William Lowe burst into houses on the street shooting and bayoneting 15 civilians. A military court of inquiry was set up following the killings, which found that the soliders had orders to “not take any prisoners” but took it to mean they were to shoot any suspected rebel. The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith was advised not to publish the findings for fear they might be used for hostile propaganda.

Roll forward 55 years, then British soldiers shot down innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday in Derry (1972), the whitewash inquiry was then conducted by Lord Widgery.

Finally, Portillo did highlight how the way the rebellion had been handled took the momentum away from those seeking home rule and in favour of the physical force republican tradition. Again, come forward half a century, which saw the way the British behaved on Bloody Sunday and the deployment of internment take the momentum away from the civil rights protesters and toward the physical force approach of the IRA.
The real point that Portillo did not make in an interesting programme was the failure of the British to learn the lessons of history, going on to repeat the same mistakes again and again

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