Taxi Talks: Irish Protestants in 1916 Ireland

Amy McCabe

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This week my Taxi Talk features a man called Mark. We began our conversation by talking all things 1916. I was talking about the buzz around the city, and how great the celebrations would be at the weekend, at the commemorations.

GPO - Photo Credit - Ian Murphy -Flickr
GPO – Photo Credit – Ian Murphy -Flickr

Mark said he would be going to these celebrations himself on Easter Sunday and Monday. He said he felt like he had a real connection with Rising. He began his wonderful story from there…….

Marks grandfather (Philip) was a born in Dublin City, near Phibsboro, he said his grandfather was born in a strong Catholic neighbourhood. He had 4 brothers, all brothers along with their mother and father were brought up Protestants. Mark said he was neither Protestant nor Catholic today, he said he believes religion no longer matters in this country anymore. Mark’s father told him that for his grandfather, Philip, who grew up in Phibsboro in the early 1900s; religion not only mattered, it was everything.

Philip had a tough time growing up in his community, kids from around would say he had to be British if he was a Protestant, or why was he living there, could he not live in Belfast with the rest of the Protestants.

Philip joined The Irish Volunteers in 1916. Mark’s father told him his grandfather felt it was his civil duty to fight for his country at that point in his life, not as a Protestant man but as an Irish man. His grandfather made it through The Rising, but sadly lost his relationship with his parents. Mr. Taxi man said Philips parents completely disagreed with involvement in The Easter Rising. Shortly after The Rising, he moved to America, and that is where Mark’s father grew up before moving back to Dublin in the mid 1900s.

1916 Easter Rising Commeration - Photo Credit - Irish Defence Forces - Flickr
1916 Easter Rising Commeration – Photo Credit – Irish Defence Forces – Flickr

Before this eye-opening Taxi Talk I didn’t really know of many Protestants who were involved in The 1916 Rising. It turns out Protestant Nationalism was just as passionate and devoted as Catholic Nationalism in the events of 1916.

Dr Martin Maguire is a senior lecturer in the Department of Humanities, Dundalk Institute of Technology. Dr Maguire spoke during the 1916 celebrations in the city last week. (check out the public lecture from Dr Martin Maguire here) He specialises in Cultural history of Irish Protestantism and has many publications on the subject of Irish Protestantism and Protestant Nationalism.

Speaking to The Circular, Dr Maguire states that previous to 1916 Irish Protestants were “generally assumed to be Unionist in politics and generally upper class. However there also an awareness amongst some that there were Protestants that were politically radical, such as Bulmer Hobson or were culturally radical, such as Douglas Hyde.”

Unfortunately, just like Mark’s grandfathers story, a lot of Irish Protestant rebel stories went un-written. Dr Maguire told me, “The Rising became an intensely Catholic affair.  This could have been different.  However the role of Protestants was not the only exclusion; women and labour were also written out and are only now being discovered.”

Dr Maguire suggests that although 1916 may seem to be a Catholic movement we should look beyond this concept. “I would argue that radicalism in general should not be seen as typically “Catholic” either.  Most Catholics were supporters of a modest form of nationalism represented by Home Rule and Redmond.”

Through the celebrations this week we have learnt that many who have never been mentioned before had great involvement in the 1916 movement.  Such as women, children and Protestants, they have now been written into the history books for future generations to discover.

1916 Rising - Photo Credit - Paul Joseph
1916 Rising – Photo Credit – Paul Joseph – Flickr

 

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Amy McCabe