Edward Pearse works as an independent consultant. He has lived happily in both jurisdictions. His name is a pseudonym due to the nature of his work, his insights are informative nonetheless.
Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Edward Pearse:
"My first memory was watching the commemoration in Dublin in 1966, on a black and white TV."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" EP:
"I don’t have any deep affinity, probably due to my Protestant / unionist background."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" EP:
"I have no particular first memory of this."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" EP:
"I can appreciate the enormity of the loss of human life. I also recognise how deeply this historical event reaches into the Ulster Protestant psyche. However, I am not aware of it shaping my own sense of identity."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" EP:
"I don’t have any deep affinity, probably due to my Protestant / unionist background. I was taught about the rising in school but the event didn’t have particular resonance in my community."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" EP:
"I respect the enormous loss of life and the part it pays in the Protestant pysche. I have also visited The Somme and found it to be a very moving experience. However, I am not conscious of it shaping my personal sense of identity or my place on this island."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" EP:
"I will be attending various symposiums / events to reflect on the historical significance of each event. This will be more from the point of view of trying to understand each event rather than any personal celebration or commemoration."
BJS: "Are you happy with the series of commemorative events put on by the Irish State? And what do you think of Arlene Foster's take on the events of Easter 1916 (she has refused to attend any commemorations)?" EP:
"I think the Irish State has been fair in its attempt to mark 1916. It is obviously a delicate matter for them as, with most things to do with history in Ireland, it is laden with political possibilities and dangers that can be exploited.
I can understand the point she was trying to make - marking a difference between events that commemorate and historical symposiums to reflect on the past. It is a difficult line to walk, especially in Ireland between respecting an event that is important to another community but not to your own. This is especially true if you feel your own community suffered in a particular event. I felt the Queen’s visit / laying a wreath at the irish Garden of Remembrance was a helpful contribution that managed to walk that particular line."
BJS: "As a person on (or from) the island are you happy with the where we are now at in terms of culture, cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness?" EP:
"I think in NI we are at a moment of opportunity where people have a greater appetite for leadership that takes us beyond the old fights and struggles. F W de Klerk captured the need by his words at Queen’s University, Belfast last year, when he said "the difference between politicians and statesmen is that politicians follow and react to public opinion while statesmen lead public opinion and channel it into new directions”."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" EP:
"That we are given leadership that reflects F W de Klerk’s assertion of the need for statesmanship type leadership. I can see the need for this and feel we are inching slowly forward, but the challenge is for leadership that will rise above simply serving its own community but that will look to the greater good."
BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." EP:
"I think that we are often presented with, on all sides, is leadership that gives the appearance of statesmanship through astute PR but doesn’t offer the substance that is needed. Leaders may gain power / votes / political advantage in the short term but we all suffer in the long term because what is needed is leadership that will help us break a historical cycle of division and violence, rather than just taking a breathing space until the next round of the conflict."