Like all good anthologies, Ronan McGreevy’s wide-ranging compilation eschews an index: to find out if you’re mentioned in it you have to read it. But it does have a list of contributors, and a table of contents, which is of structural interest in itself in that not all of the 10 sections are directly related to the 10 decades since 1916.
There are no entries for 1936 or 1946 or 1986. A quick look through The Irish Times’s online archive reveals, indeed, that in the first two of these years, at any rate, the ceremonies were perfunctory, to put it mildly. In the 1930s and 1940s, of course, militant republicanism would have been at the forefront of many people’s minds, particularly Éamon de Valera’s. But there are substantial sections dealing with the 65th and 75th anniversaries, in 1981 and 1991, indicating that our appetite for commemoration has been progressively growing towards its present, apparently insatiable level.
Unexpected pleasures More than a quarter of the book is devoted to the decade beginning in 1916. This seems overgenerous, given that many aspects of the 1916 coverage have been adequately rereported comparatively recently, but even here there are unexpected pleasures, such as Lenin’s commentary on 1916.
Explanatory notes, which might have been useful, are few and far between. Readers may not be convinced, given The Irish Times’s then visceral dislike of the Irish Parliamentary Party, by the editor’s suggested reason for the omission of the most poignant excerpts from the post-Rising House of Commons debate, at which John Redmond praised the “bravery and skill” of the insurgents and described Gen Sir John Maxwell executions of the leaders of the rebellion as “letting loose a river of blood”. Could “deadlines pressures” alone have been responsible for such political omissions?