21 blog posts series take twenty

21 blog posts series take twenty

Twenty: “Refugees and the art of welcoming”

Earlier in the week we were exposed to heart-breaking images around the world of people, including young children suffering terrible pain within a war struck Syria. These were innocent civilians suffering simply for being in the place they are in. I know we wouldn’t wish this on anyone, to attempt living life in these hazardous and chaotic conditions but when we don’t give the support to refugees who make the journey to emigrate abroad, we don’t leave them with much choice. Formalities and integration of refugees is a time consuming process but when we think of these innocent people dying, there has to be realisation that we must do more.

I just think it creates this falseness when we try to attract tourists to our country, proclaiming loudly and proudly how great a place is and how welcoming it is but when it comes to those who are in need of that welcome, the door often remains shut. I suppose this comes down to finances and available funds but when we look to history again, it can be noted that often at times, sacrifices were made in much more dire circumstances. We are doing humanity and our history a disservice by not allowing refugees in.

I feel that it’s naturally in us as people and even throughout the ages to travel to new parts and really there shouldn’t be barriers to that. We should be encouraged to move about, whether that be for leisure or necessity. I understand that each nation has its own identity and culture to be proud of but the idea of multiculturalism is not a punishment of any sort and shouldn’t tarnish that identity. I think that more often than not we learn from others’ backgrounds and there should be a mutual respect there both for our similarities and differences.

It comes down to the simple things that we want to pass on after we’re gone. How do we expect to teach our children to be inclusive towards others on the playground when the adults are not doing the same on the even bigger playground? This is not just to do with how refugees are treated but simply all minorities. Prejudices are created by us, we are the only ones who keep them alive by practising them out socially in some way or another. So it really comes down to asking if we want to keep this alive or we want to come across better than that in our chapter of history.

Multiculturalism enriches a society in tackling our close-mindedness that can sometimes prevail. If you’re proud of something, like your country and its identity, why wouldn’t you want to share it and show it off for the greatness you feel it has? Donald J Trump’s idea of making “America great again” is supposed to come about while refugees are being rejected and a travel ban is put in place. When you think about that in logical terms, what’s does “great” actually mean here – great for whom? Of course when we look to the history of America, it’s totally based off immigration but who’s listening to common sense in 2017 anyway.

I think that we have a long way to go yet before we are close to creating a fair and equal society, where each and every one are being welcomed to the table is something commonplace. But situations and decisions like Brexit and the obstructive policies of Trump’s Government are certainly steps backwards in this. I think we really need to listen to the stories from refugees to truly understand why they are making these journeys, often seen as nearly suicidal with slim chances of making it. But what do they face if they do make it? We shouldn’t be there to give more hardship to these people. We are all connected with the likes of diaspora and emigration, so why is there a negative dialogue around refugees now? This is nothing new and simply part of a changing world.

All photos are taken from my personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/


21 blog posts series seven

21 blog posts series seven

Seven: “Appreciating the lessons of history”

They say that history has a habit of repeating itself. Of course I’d agree with that to a certain point, but some things are and should be allowed to be fresh and unique in their own way as new ideas and trends come into the way we live. Without doubt, there’s a lot we can learn from history and I think it serves its purpose in that sense and should be studied and taken seriously with a high level of respect and dignity.

Context is essential for looking at history, before we make our own judgement based on that time versus the way we are now. A couple of years back, I looked into the concept of historical revisionism, something truly different in the way we look back at history. Although revisionism is very much heavy critical thinking for the most part, it’s something that makes us think deeper about a time instead of just accepting whatever it is we hear, in the way history is written about. I actually posted that study to my blog if you fancy reading it here for a bit more understanding: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/a-look-to-historical-revisionism-commemorations-and-1916-ireland/.

Now, recently someone told me that having a history degree is something unique and special, providing a better and more profound world view. Doing a degree in something I understand can open your mind to independent and different thoughts around an era and of course is highly academic, but I don’t think it’s essential that everyone have a degree in order to appreciate and learn from history.

Getting back to history repeating itself; originally, I found that concept a very scary thing. That mistakes could be made again and even the sense that humans never learn. Could that be the case? I know for sure that that world view isn’t the best for us in general. But I think that if we all kept our eyes on history, potentially we could avoid this repetition and even stand in the way of allowing history to repeat itself when it comes to the things we dislike or are uncomfortable with. If we all gave history the time and respect it deserved, we could all lend a hand in spotting things in politics and even socially that feel a little too close for comfort, that we may have seen before historically.

History has shaped how we live and who we are, that fact can’t be denied. To really understand the present and look to the future, the past is as important as any other contributing factor. Quick thinking and irrational decisions really stand out historically and can be spotted fairly easily.

I went to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam recently and it was something I’d always been drawn to seeing obviously because of the mark the Holocaust and World War II made in our history as a people. The heartache of the innocent and the wrong of the powerful, those ideas stick. Being in the house itself felt solemn and I will admit that some parts of it brought up emotions in the pure sense of wrong and the desperation of this family who had their world turned upside-down.

A particularly interesting part of the tour was at the end though when everyone was invited to sit and watch a stream of comments from previous visitors and admirers of Anne Frank’s story. The message hit home that this cannot and should not be let happen again. The idea of history repeating itself was stuck in my mind that day. We hear a lot in the world’s media about changes to immigration laws, the strife of refugees and just a lot of underlying unrest with the rise of right wing politics that people don’t necessarily voice publicly.

I think looking to history might help us contemplate better the time we’re currently facing. I watched some of Martin McGuinness’s funeral last week, attended by those of opposing views as well as family, friends and admirers. Really, I had never seen such a positive farewell in the form of a service. I do firmly believe hatred can be conquered and if we don’t try to do so, each and every day – we are doing our history a disservice.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

A look to historical revisionism, commemorations and 1916 Ireland.

As the Irish centenary of the 1916 rising has been happening here over the past few months, I decided to review a paper I wrote for my Leaving Certificate history class in 2014. A lot of work went into it and it makes you think about the correct approach to marking or commemorating a national historical event.

I have compiled my findings on the topic of historical revisionism and the revisionist article by Father Francis Shaw which focuses on revising the 1916 Rising and the beliefs of Patrick Pearse. Written at a time of the late 1960s when the 50th anniversary of the rising was being commemorated, this essay sparked the revisionist movement in Ireland. I will discover who the revisionist writer was, in my own study of his writing in extraction. Thereafter I will explain how this sparked other revisionists to analyse the events of 1916 coming to my final conclusion. Now must begin where the whole process of revisionism started.

April 1966 saw the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Sean Lemass was Taoiseach and Eamonn de Valera was President of Ireland. Both political figures had been involved in the rising and plans were made to correctly commemorate the anniversary in ‘contemporary Ireland’, focus set on looking backwards as much as forwards.

In February 1965, a committee formed to oversee the organisation of the commemorations. The centrepiece of the week-long commemoration was a military parade display with gunshots fired from the roof of the G.P.O with 200,000 people viewers. Having seen footage on the Seven Ages of Ireland DVD, I was shocked and intrigued as veterans took pride in this commemorative display. De Valera was said to be metaphorically blind, not recognising the changes that had occurred in Ireland saying ‘we cannot adequately honour the men of 1916 if we do not work and strive to bring about an Ireland of their desire’.

At this time a Jesuit reverend and academic, Father Francis Shaw was asked to write a commemorative article. From my research I found that this article, a forty-page essay, was not published until 1972, two years after Shaw’s death and the commemorations were over. My interest grabbed, I asked why it wasn’t published at the time it was written. The essay itself was deemed to be controversial, untimely and inappropriate. To understand the nature of the essay, I reviewed it in detail and decided to analyse its content.

I found that within the essay Shaw critically analyses the rising and the beliefs held by Patrick Pearse. The writings were particularly interesting although gritty I found. Pearse’s ‘blood sacrifice’ belief featured as Shaw claims Pearse was linking his own death for the cause of Ireland to Christ dying for a cause. ‘Blood sacrifice’ is derived from a mixture of Pagan mythology, Christianity and militaristic notions popular in World War 1. Pearses’ belief stood that Ireland would only win her freedom by the death and bloodshed in battle of her patriots, creating martyrdom.

From my research I found that this process by Shaw is known as ‘revisionism’ (the theory/practise of revising ones attitude to a previously accepted situation/point of view. When revising history, one critiques or analyses ‘neglected or under-rated issues’ to offer modern conclusions.  Claiming to be value-free and objective, the process varies in degrees of time, intensity, agenda and values.

Shaw was a revisionist. Born in 1907, he dedicated his life to study the teachings of Jesus as a Jesuit reverend also being an academic being professor of Early and Medieval Irish at University College Dublin. He engaged in some lively controversial writing in his field but none were as significant as his long essay in influencing other revisionist writers to begin critically analyse and challenge/question the legacy, which was the foundation of revisionism in Ireland. For Ireland, revisionism meant revising, dismantling and destroying traditional nationalist views of history. Shaw points out that no mature, comprehensive, objective study of the political philosophy of 1916 had been done and maybe it was too near to the historic event for this type of study. He also stated it may surprise readers but hopefully offend none.

In the essay he describes 1916 as ‘the beginning and the end of Irelands struggle for freedom’ explaining Ireland suffered from 1916 with partition, civil war and an end to any possibility of National unity. He tells that the legacy honours a group of men who decided what the nation should want in taking part in a minority rising. Shaw says the people of Ireland were approaching independence at their own pace/way but this forceful military act (which ultimately failed) changed this path. The Irish Republican Brotherhood and The Volunteers pledged to avoid any action that might result in disunity, Parnell having said ‘no man had the right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation’. It appeared to Shaw that the legacy holds only these rebels and the Fenians had patriotism in mind, which he deems as false.

Shaw captures Pearses’ ‘complex character’ saying he was a clear/incisive thinker, writer and spokesman but writings often coloured with his unusual cast of thought. He entertained a slight rather than profound visionary image of early Ireland with romantic ideas often exaggerated from reality. His two heroes were Cú Chulainn, the patriot solider martyr and Colum Cille, the Christian patriot who’s stories Pearse held like a sacred book says Shaw. Shaw describes Pearses obsession with physical force and bloodshed taking precedence as he fell to a state of single-mindedness from 1913 onwards. Pearse made the transition from moderate nationalist to extremist republican separatist quickly. ‘God spoke to Ireland through Wolftone’ said Pearse who held a separatist hatred of England calling it ‘the never ending source of all political evils’.

Pearses speeches began linking patriotism to holiness, his mythology Shaw describes as ‘solemn and alarming’ saying the notion of expressing political-national ideas in terms of the Christian Faith became an obsession. Pearses professes blood sacrifice in terms of the gospel ‘I will stand before the Gall as Christ hung naked before men on a tree’. Pearse holds the messianic view of nationalism connected to the unqualified glorification of bloodshed. Shaw claims Pearse was very bloody-minded as he said ‘bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying this’ and would not have been satisfied to attain independence by peaceful means as bloodshed was necessary.

In the aftermath Pearse said the rising had ‘saved Irelands honour’ and Pearse romantically talked about the ‘exhilaration of war’.  But Shaw claims never has Ireland seen such rapid transformation in human thought as this idealistic view is lost and change since shows how superficial Irelands flirtation with extremism was as it didn’t have the peoples’ support from the start. Shaw states 1916 was the rise of extreme nationalism in time when war and triumph were in favour. The world is disregarding extreme nationalism as a negative force. His final message is one of reflection as he says 1916 and onwards closed a chapter of a long history of strife but as a people we should forget the past and he states finally ‘There can be no more criminal disservice to Ireland than to keep the fire of hatred burning’.

This writing sparked other revisionists to begin examination. I found it interesting how each dealt with re-occurring themes/issues. Shaw explored Pearses’ character as did revisionist Ruth Dudley-Edwards. I found her points similar to Shaw although she assessed his background, life works and St.Enda’s further.  The works of revisionists D.George Boyce and Alan O’Day dealt with how the Rising affected Irish politics, partition and unity with a focus also on the proclamation. They all referred back to Shaw but also to W.B Yeats, the point made by Charles Townshend that Yeats was a revisionist writer, particularly the poem ‘Easter 1916’.

In a letter to Lady Gregory, Yeats said he wanted to focus the poem on the key message of the rising as a ‘terrible beauty’. Here he captures his own representation of the rising from his key position of esteem in society, months after it had happened. This reflection was revisionism and he later asked ‘did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot’? The fact he wrote/thought this provokes new thinking, such is the aim of revisionism.

From my study I have learned to define revisionism and how it came to life in the late 1960s. I have studied the essay by Shaw and have come to the new knowledge of the patriotic martyr Patrick Pearse and the Rising itself, with Shaw setting a revisionist tone. From reading the commemorative articles and watching the Seven Ages DVD I now realise the general feeling of society in 1966. Also I understand what it means to be a revisionist and how these revisionist writers raise similar issues. The entire process was interesting and eye-opening and I have discovered much from my reading.

To arrive at the title I decided to focus on two main aims of interest in the area of study. I researched and developed my thoughts to arrive at the title I felt captured this. My first source I found by cross-reference and I was lucky to locate the complete essay. From my library I found the books which dealt with issues raised within my topic. On the official website of the historical journal I discovered the commemorations article. I used these sources as foundations for my study with Shaw’s essay being my main source. The sources allowed me to reference my main point and gain further understanding. To put the data in order I planned a structured agenda to use the information found and this centred my focus. I achieved the aims of my outline plan by following it in citing sources and remaining focused always looking for more information. In hindsight I would have looked at the anti-revisionist side further, and I found difficulty in referencing other revisionists as they were all wrote at different times.

Yeats Exhibition Review (2013)


On the 29th October 2013, some enthusiastic sixth year English students, with a keen interest in poetry and culture, made the trip to The National Library of Dublin.

Here at the library located on Kildare Street next to Dáil Eireann, the students visited the fantastic exhibition of the life and works of the poet and playwright William Butler Yeats.

The award winning exhibition was first opened to the public in 2006, with the intent of being open for a single year only. Nine years on, the excellent exhibition is still as popular as ever with visitors of Irish nationality and for foreign tourists.

We were welcomed into the exhibition by our friendly and helpful tour guide, organised to assist us throughout. On first step into the exhibition room, we saw the poetic works of Yeats brought to life visually, as the poems were read aloud to changing images which one could sit and enjoy.

The exhibition was organised in a way that captured the changing times within Yeats’ life.

First we saw protected heirlooms from Yeats’ childhood, including a school report and pictures of his childhood home and surrounding area, which he later captures and refers to in his escapist era of poetry. This was followed by a glimpse into his teenage years, where we see him explore some more complex issues in attempt to gain understanding about the world around him and indeed himself.

The next section of the exhibition focused on the women within Yeats’ life and the role they played in his works as a playwright and poet. This particular room had framed photographs of different mistresses and love interests of Yeats, from Countess Markievicz and Maud Gonne to his own wife, Georgiana Hyde-Lees. This was interesting to see the total amount of women and how crucial their involvement with Yeats was in such ways to which they influenced his writings.

Following this we saw Yeats’ special connection to the older Lady Gregory, who Yeats was very close to in having similar interests with artistic and cultural projects, the major one being the setting up of The Abbey Theatre.

In glass cases were original letters Yeats and Gregory wrote to each other and it was clear to see the exceptional bond they held. Yeats in middle age explored different cults and religions. The exhibition portrayed this graphically with detailed robes and symbols from different cults and religions Yeats became fixated on. It was interesting to see how this influenced his works, bringing forth new ideas of self expression in a slightly romanticised fashion.

From the exhibition it was clear to see how Yeats was heavily involved and interested in politics. From his poems ‘Easter 1916’ and ‘September 1913’ Yeats comes forth holding  his own stance as a well established poet in society at the time, as he notes his reactions and views to these national social and political events which he lived through.

In later life he furthered his political input becoming a member of the Seanad. His objective as a Seanad member was to be a representative for the area of arts and literature, although he often ignored this and got involved in heated controversial debates on topics such as divorce. Within his final years of life he was still a persistent poet and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the exhibition, the top hat which he wore when receiving the award was on display and also a replica of the award itself.

In the final back room within the exhibition there was a place to sit to watch a film playing of literary and public figures speaking about Yeats, the late poet Seamus Heaney featured speaking here which was great to see their own appreciation of Yeats.  The exhibition had an excellent mixture of factual information, social history, politics, romance and religion which gave a detailed look into these aspects of Yeats’ life and works.

All artefacts present were donated by Yeats’ family, and it was really a capsule of dedication to the great poet and playwright he was and so much more. The mixture of multimedia modern technologies alongside original manuscripts was great to see, as the original works of Yeats were brought into focus to modern access.

To take the virtual tour online visit www.nli.ie/yeats .

The Yeats exhibition is just one of many free attractions to visit in Dublin. For those who wish to discover more about the attractions within our cultural capital city, log on to http://www.dublin.ie or www.visitdublin.com .

A Message Amidst Madness Series: Seeing people as real.

By Cathy Lee

So as it’s election season, this has brought focus to the chosen few in each constituency as to who is to represent and triumph at the polls.

The promises are thrown out and repeated on end, with the key words of “progression” and “prosperity” to be seen everywhere.

With posters shining above us upon most lamp posts and the odd fence, it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing these running TDs as some new form of super-hero or celebrity.

I understand that these people are public figures, but it’s key to remember that these guys, although politicians, are still people at the end of it all.

Respecting somebodies status is a social phenomenon that we’ve all grown up with.

Such as respect your parents, respect your teachers, respect the priest, respect your boss.. and the list goes on.

But this week at the University of Limerick, RTE showcased the Party Leaders Debate, presented by journalist Claire Byrne.

I was very impressed to see that when questions were taken from the audience, the crowd had little fear to question the big bosses and ask them about their intentions.

I think this is only right and totally necessary.

If there’s one characteristic that running candidates or party leaders should have, it’s simply to be answerable.

(Not too much to ask from a person supposedly to be trusted with the running of our society.)

The way this election is going, there appears to be an act of desperation to get in rather than a practical approach to problem solving.

Don’t get me wrong that I’m being all preaching here, I know problem solving is hard.

I just don’t understand how in my home constituency of Wicklow, giving out Valentines cards from your local TDs, “refreshing” hand wipes or talk about going on the “Ferris-wheel” is really the target to assure a prosperous government to rely on for the future.

TDs want to be taken seriously but also want to win the sort of popularity contest that is currently going on.

These concepts can clash together creating confusion among the electorate.

A new approach is needed.

I believe that each person, as a citizen of this country, should be registered to vote and be informed.

If they are not, they can easily be manipulated by the next to nothing propaganda that’s happening at the moment of party-pushing.

It should be the standing obligation of our national government to make sure people are informed about the election process.

Instead TDs are acting somewhat manipulative, not thinking of the country as a whole rather their own career gains.

In recent elections, a lot of people had a change of mind on who to vote for within the last couple of days of the election.

These are fighting times, where it could really go either way.

Power and who holds it impacts, history has taught us that on many occasions.

So I encourage you to ask the TDs the hard questions, forget about their titles and make them earn your vote instead of a feeble attempt at buying it.

A friend recently told me a piece of advice that has been passed down through her family: “people may have their titles, their success and their status: but you must remember that they use the toilet in just the same way as you or I”.