Dan Boyle: Try To Remember


The street named after Cork Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain, killed by the RIC during the War of Independence. (right) lies in the city’s so-called ‘Victorian Quarter’; Dan Boyle

I had the privilege this week of seeing the excellent Paul Brady. The highpoint was a moving rendition of his song ‘The Island‘. I was particularly taken with the line, “Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone”.

At the most recent Cork City Council meeting a discussion occurred about Cork’s imminent entry into the national decade of commemorations.

1920 was the year where Cork became the epicentre of the story of Ireland. Much of the narrative revolved around the two martyred (Lord) Mayors, MacCurtain and MacSwiney. They were two of the four men who held the office that year.

The year was to end with the evident war crime that was the burning of Cork’s city centre.

Cork City Council has been discussing how these events should be marked. Obviously they should be, but also in a context where what wasn’t talked about then and hasn’t been talked about since, can be addressed openly now.

The obvious omission has been the role of women in the War of Independence, or indeed with the development of the State since.

At least in committee the City Council has been trying to construct a programme of events that could be put in place that address such omissions and carry an awareness of sensitivities.

That had been the hope.

Last Monday’s public city council meeting descended into farce, as councillors sought to out-republicanise each other.

Greatest umbrage was being taken at the branding of a part of the city as the Victorian Quarter. It’s a branding that I have been somewhat indifferent too, although it doesn’t offend me.

The branding has certainly offended some on Cork City Council. They see it as being acceptance of everything and anything her name has ever been associated with.

From Famine Queen to arbiter of social mores to being Empress of India, the very existence of a Victorian Quarter in Cork is seen as a confirmation of an anglocentric view of history.

But it really isn’t. In the case of Cork it highlights a collection of buildings whose architectural sense can be described as Victorian.

My fear is that a year of commemoration, that can be and should be dignified, will instead be open to hundreds of reinterpretations, all based on offence.

What the decade of commemorations has succeeded in doing has been to help us understand that there is no single, definitive version of Irish history.

Not only are there nuances, we should also be more understanding in realising that the same set of circumstances can be looked at differently through different perspectives.

Through knowledge of complexities we can begin to understand. It is more of a loosening rather than a letting go. Both being difficult in the context of Irish history.

We need to get away from a my history right or wrong approach as quickly as possible. It is the important next step in our maturing as a country.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

39 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Try To Remember

    1. some old queen

      Well now- look at you on the internet with your eBay purchased rosary beads- you do know that there is supposed to be same number in each decade?

  1. Spaghetti Hoop

    Interesting piece.
    What struck me initially was, Cork City Council is only tabling their commemoration plan NOW? The War of Independence kicked off (albeit late) in 1919 and with Dublin’s 2016 commemorations done and dusted and with perhaps a template, I would have thought all of the Cork stakeholders would have met in late 2018 to formalise a plan.

    You’re right – ‘Victorian’ relates to the era of Victoria’s reign and like it or not, the artifacts from various periods of time are often, not always, referred to by who was sitting on the English throne. But what is evident from all of the squabbles you mention – isn’t this exactly the kind of stuff that has plagued the peace process and progress of devolved governance in the North? Names, parades, customs, language…

    If ye can’t agree on what Victorian means in the context of the are of the city then this could end up akin to the Galway Capital of Culture hoo-haa.

    Also, the obsession of County Councils with ‘quarters’, lol!

    Still, I think this is an opportunity for the county to shine and instill a nationwide appreciation of an important phase of our history.

    1. Hansel

      Yeah I find all of the Cork City “Quarter” nonsense is very irritating.
      Notions of grandeur: it’s just a building in some cases.

      Also, Dan, keep fighting the good fight with regards parking enforcement. I don’t know how representative of the general public my circle of friends is, but they’re all in agreement with you.

  2. V

    and where are the Black and Tan quarters Dan?

    As much as I like the V (and I’ll be hacking that for meself btw)
    Its the burning of Cork and the City rising out of it, like the Blood and Bandage and the Rebel County is what 2020 has to be about.

    I fecking hate this dolling up carry-on; Its like people are afraid to be reminded of where they come from

    I’m not a bit afraid of who I am
    Hon’ Cork
    Hon’ the Rebels

    The South Will Rise Again – and we Did!

    Loud and Proud bhoy!

      1. V

        I’m sure it will,
        But we’d a great football year too don’t forget, ahem U-20s (9 points down etc etc)
        Hurling wadden’t too shabby either
        For two start-up’ish squads like

        But then 6 times in succession wouldn’t do much for a ‘wan that has seen a few fours, and enough doubles to see me out already

          1. Brother Barnabas

            just thinking

            when we hit 50 consecutive, we’ll likely look back and snigger at out 5-in-row giddiness

          2. V

            but the way things are going Bruddar, all the next generation Dubs will be playing for Kildare, Meath, Wexford, Westmeath, Wickla and gaw’ help them Carla

            You mark my words lads
            Rural Broadbrand will wipe out the Dubs as they relocate to find a gaff that has a seperate front room and a second loo

            And Enda’s n’ the like start developing hotels, mixed use apartment blocks and park and rides on their hectares of pitches

            The whole thing may well have been a conspiracy to put manners on ye

          3. Brother Barnabas

            not a chance, frillz

            sure there are kids who’s families moved from Dublin to cork in the 18th century yet they still dream of playing for Dublin

    1. V

      They’d be anudder burning of Cork if they touched De’ English Marka’

      Cleaning it up and putting fancy tiles and fancy shops n’ restaurants into it about a far as they could push it
      But shur’ we’d visitors coming over

    2. Bud Flanagan

      I thought everyone called it The Laughing Fishmonger these days ?
      I remember the good people of Cork giving Her Majesty the best reception she found anywhere during her historic visit to Ireland.
      The Rebel County turned out in their thousands to give her a right royal reception.
      Good times.

  3. V

    They’d be anudder burning of Cork if they touched De’ English Marka’

    Cleaning it up and putting fancy tiles and fancy shops n’ resturants into is about a far as they could push it
    But shur’ we’d visitors

  4. Bud Flanagan

    Yes, why spurn the chance to look to the future when you can have a good old wallow in teary-eyed nonsense about the past.
    It happened.
    The Brits were awful.Everyone knows that.
    Get over it.
    Generation Twitter doesn’t care what happened in monochrome.
    It’s now just a boozy old fart sat in the corner of the pub shouting ” 800 years ” while the young ‘uns cheer on their English football team on the telly.

    1. V

      An’ look who’s talking

      Cork 800 was in 1985 Dud
      You’d nearly wanta start practicing what you preach dere bhoy
      fellas will tink youra bitta’ve gom like

        1. V

          Just not your day Dud

          That’s pure Cork City bhoy

          There’s no hinteen norra bit of countree talk about here
          We’ll keep that special for the lads from the bogs

    2. millie vanilly strikes again

      You mean the way the brits get positively wet with excitement over the good old days when Britain had an Empire and the foreigners knew their place? Keep calm and carry on chaps.

      It happened. Get over it.

      1. Bud Flanagan

        Do they though ?
        When exactly do the British celebrate their Empire ?
        Nostalgia is in short supply these days in mult-culttural Blighty though it is encouraging to note how many citizens of the former Empire including lots of Irish people flock to the mainland to find work and live there permanently.
        Britainnia offers a welcome to everyone.

        1. millie vanilly strikes again

          I could copy your entire reply, switch it a few words around and apply it to the utter dross you posted about Ireland.

          Empty words and cheap stereotyping is all you seem to have.

          1. millie vanilly strikes again

            Yes I am, thank you. I’m sure I could say the same about you, knowing absolutely sfa about you on any kind of personal level.

          2. Bud Flanagan

            You have anger management issues.
            They normally arise from a combination of a lack of self-esteem and an inferiority complex with a heavy dollop of sexual repression thrown in.
            Seek help lovey.

          3. millie vanilly strikes again

            Has no rebuttal so resorts to maligning my mental health and my sex life.

            You really are a fool.

          4. Bud Flanagan

            I have sympathy for people who lose the plot on the internet.
            For someone who has a cheery disposition and sunny outlook on life I find it a bit peculiar.
            Unless there’s drink taken of course.
            We’ve all acted the maggot when in our cups.
            I hold my hand up to that.
            Anyway, I must away and choose my drink selection for the hours ahead.
            I’m thinking of a few bottles of Fullers London Pride to start but if Boris comes a cropper in the exit poll I might well be on the strong stuff earlier than planned.
            I have a bottle of Dalwhinnie for such an emergency.
            Hope everyone enjoys the results tonight – whichever way they go it’s great to see democracy in action.
            There are millions of people who’d give anything to have what we take for granted.

          5. millie vanilly strikes again

            Tldr: I have no actual response so I’m going to imply you’re an alco with mental health problems.

            Sterling work, bud. I think you’ll find you’re projecting.

        2. V

          Well Dud
          That marching about and parading they call the Tattoo is pretty wanky stuff
          And so is this honours list and gratuitous Honorable Lordships they do pull out of their back pockets for any ould’ cause
          Not to mention whenever one of the Windsors has a do

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