March 22, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Ruth Dudley Edwards

The name on her passport is Ruth Edwards, but the men of the family had Dudley as a second name so it became the family name and she couldn't escape it.  Ruth was born Dublin 1944 and brought up there, though parts of summers were often spent with maternal relatives in rural north Cork.   

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Ruth Dudley Edwards
"My republican grandmother, who lived upstairs, had over her fireplace a reproduction of of the Walter Paget 'Birth of the Irish Republic', which showed an imaginary scene in the General Post Office.  She told me heroic tales about the Rising."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" RDE
"The men mean a lot.  At school I was fascinated that Patrick Pearse was supposed to be the greatest man in Irish history but no one seemed to know anything about him.  I eventually wrote his biography (Patrick Pearse: the triumph of failure). Curiosity about the others led me to write about them too.  The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic comes out on 22 March.  [Brian, if you could get include an image from amazon that would be good.] 
But my interest in them is human interest and as an historian. They were fascinating people and, in their way, selfless, but I believe the rising was a disaster for Ireland and has given a spurious legitimacy for political violence to this day."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" RDE
"Certainly not at school, but probably through fiction and the cinema in a vague kind of way.  Frank McGuinness's Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme affected me deeply."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" RDE
"Yes, in a sad way, not least because I went to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme with friends from Ulster."
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?" RDE
"Because of its iconic status, the rubbish talked about it and its pernicious effect in encouraging young men to kill for Ireland, it became  totemic for me as a kind of nationalism that must be understood, explained and opposed."
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?" RDE
"I am an Irish citizen and a British subject who regards myself as British-Irish, but neither the Rising nor the Somme affect my sense of identity, which is more complicated."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" RDE
"I hate the waste of life and the suffering and see nothing to celebrate, but I'll acknowledge and honour the innocent dead."
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)?" RDE
"I think the Irish government mostly deserves congratulation for the way they have handled this commemorative year. I can't see why anyone would expect Arlene Foster to be involved in any commemoration, but I'm glad she went to Dublin and is showing an interest in understanding what happened."
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?" RDE
"We have a long way to go if we're to get rid of tribalism and sectarianism, but I'm encouraged by a much greater openness and tolerance."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" RDE
"Having made wonderful friends in Northern Ireland, I long for the two tribes to get to know, tolerate, complement and even like each other.  That can't happen while the constitutional settlement is threatened and while republicans continue to wage a culture war on unionists."
BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." RDE
"An attack of despaire about the dark side of human nature."
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