Thursday, April 24, 2008

Republicanism, Irish and Iranian

Listen to "The Foggy Dew," sung by The Wolfe Tones, in commemoration of the Easter Rising (24 April 1916). The song's lyrics contrasts Irishmen who served on the British side in the Battle of Gallipoli with Irish republicans who fought against the British Empire:
Right proudly high over Dublin Town
          they flung out the flag of war
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
          than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar . . .
'Twas England bade our wild geese go,
          that "small nations might be free";
But their lonely graves are by Suvla's waves
          or the fringe of the great North Sea.
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side
          or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their graves we'd keep where the Fenians sleep,
          'neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

An Irish friend of mine in Belfast, James Daly, told me: "By the way, the Iranians sent a plaque to the family of my friend Patsy O'Hara commemorating his hunger strike to the death."

Intrigued, I looked up more signs of Iranian identification with Irish republicanism. Here's the most eloquent: Iranian revolutionaries renamed "Churchill Street" -- the street behind the British Embassy -- "Bobby Sands Street" (Pedram Moallemian, "Naming Bobby Sands Street," The Blanket, 24 February 2004). Despite the British government's pressures on the Iranians to change the name again, the street remains dedicated to the memory of the Irish revolutionary.

Neither in Iran nor in Ireland have the highest revolutionary goals been achieved yet. But the flames of republicanism are still alive in the finest of their men and women. Tiocfaidh ár lá. Our day will come.

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