February 24, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Shane Davey

Shane Davey is a 28 year old exile originally from Kilrea, a small town in rural County Derry. Shane ventured away slightly and went to secondary school in St Mary’s Magherafelt, followed by university in NYC, where he currently resides. He is a full time trader based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 
Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Shane Davey:

"The first time a learned about the rising was Easter 1998, when someone asked me to read out the proclamation at a Republican commemoration in Kilrea.  I was only 10 and the time, and it was the first time I had ever read the document; and I have to admit I struggled with the vocabulary. After I struggled through the lofty paragraphs, I was left with more questions than answers. Why are we reading this? Why is this important? I have since I have developed a long love of Irish history, and an appreciation of the profound impact the rising had on the whole island even though it was ultimately a failure."

BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" SD:

"The act of blood sacrifice in Ireland has a long history, and the harsh response to the rising by the British Government made martyrs out of the rebels – something revered in the Irish psyche; unfortunately The British Government still didn’t learn this lesson right up to the hunger strikes. The proclamation when put in context, offered true freedom and equality to all in Ireland, something the union fell short of at that period in time.  The Third Home Rule Bill was on the statue books, but once the fire was lit, it was going to be a challenge to extinguish it. 

As a piece of literature, it offers us blunt idealism like most declarations, but offers no practical advice on how to achieve them.  I might be going out on a limb here as a nationalist, but I think the proclamation for me on a personal level is flawed.  As a hardcore secularist, I’m uneasy with the amount of reference to “God”, it offers religious freedom, but not the freedom of choosing noreligion."

BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" SD:

"I first learned about the Battle of the Somme while reading the cenotaph the Diamond, Kilrea.  I always associated it with “themmuns” as it was always adored with wreaths, poppies and Union flags every 12th and remembrance Sunday.  I was fascinated by the scores of names on those four stone faces, some of them relatives of my own.  Here we have local lads in the center of my home town, and yet I know nothing about them."

BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" SD:

"When I was younger, and quite a lot more foolish, I always consigned these men to the dustbin of history. I considered them just another part of the British Army’s legacy in Ireland, which is not the case whatsoever. One of the most popular history podcasts at the minute is “Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History”, and he took an episode of his WW1 series to go into the horrors of The Somme through primary sources.  It truly is horrifying what those men went thought and it gave me an appreciation for the 36th Ulster Division that I thought I would never have."

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?" SD:

"Living abroad and coming up to the decade of centenaries, I feel somewhat detached from the pageantry taking place.  I will no doubt be streaming the festivities live on Easter Sunday however!  I have been able to obtain a different perspective on things, and the rising doesn’t feel as important to me as the troubles were. We in NI are still living with the legacy of the troubles, whereas the Easter Rising although important in a historical sense, doesn’t affect me, or my sense of belonging."

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?" SD:

"In the past, the Somme commemorations wouldn’t have even factored into my life, but I will be taking note this year.  I am going to make an effort when I return home to read those names on that cenotaph, and find out what happened to the men that come from my area one hundred years ago.  They were as Irish as me, why shouldn’t I? I don’t think being proud of the 36th Ulster division should threaten my Irish identity at all.  Everyone needs to have a sense of belonging here, and both sides of the community fought and died on the Western Front over 5 months, it is to be remembered, shared and cherished. If anything it should bring us closer together."

BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" SD:

"The Glucksman Ireland House at NYU will be holding an academic conference in April with unique collections or Irish and Irish American exhibits from the 1916 period. It will be interesting to get an American perspective on the events of the time. Unfortunately I will not be celebrating the Somme, but I have plenty of Protestant friends that will be, and I’ll be in touch with them throughout the celebrations."

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?" SD:

"I’m glad to see a sense of “Northern Irishness” being fostered along with the other two identities. I have no problem calling myself Northern Irish, supporting the NI football team or Ulster Rugby while supporting Derry GAA or the ROI national team. I love Ulster and Ireland. When Americans say they are going to Ireland, I turn into a Discover NI rep!  With any post conflict situation, it will take time to heal, I think Martin McGuinness is pioneering this healing, and I hope it time it will be replicated by Unionists, which I have every confidence it will."

BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" SD:

"We live in interesting times, with a possible Brexit looming, second Scottish Independence referendum, and the possibility of SF holding power on both sides of the border. It’s very hard to predict what will happen in the next 5 years on the island as even a week is a long time in politics. The GFA and subsequent agreements gave us the framework to make the place a success; however I expect our relationship with London and Dublin to continue to be uneasy for the foreseeable future."

BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." SD:

"One of the most interesting topics about the discussion of the rising is the historical revisionism we see coming from the media and the political elite in the ROI, both past and present. The former Taoiseach, John Bruton has made many media appearances dubbing the rising an unjust war. I suspect that this is to discredit Sinn Fein’s narrative. On one hand how can you celebrate an armed undemocratic uprising against the state that bore 466 deaths with 2,217 civilians wounded, while condemn the PIRA with the other? Which one of the two are terrorists?"

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