The 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland: Fighting Colonialism then and now

The 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland: Fighting Colonialism then and now

April 24th will mark the centenary of the 1916 ‘Easter Uprising’ against English colonialism in Dublin, Ireland.

Given the importance of the Irish in Ottawa history (e.g., building the Rideau Canal) and their ongoing battle against British colonialism, we would be remiss in not highlighting at least one of the Ottawa-based commemorative activities taking place.

Kevin Dooley, an Ottawa socialist and Irish activist, is organizing an event on Sunday May 1st. There will be music and speeches to commemorate the 1916 rebellion, starting at 7:30 PM at the Heart & Crown Snug Pub at 353 Preston Street. The event will be the perfect way to end Mayday, after the march planned for the same day by Solidarity Against Austerity.

Among other things, 1916 commemorative event will include excerpts from the writings of James Connolly, the Irish Socialist who was executed by the British for his role in leading the Easter Uprising.

Understanding British colonialism in Ireland, and the vicious racism associated with it, is critical to understanding the history of Ottawa, and the continuing colonial oppression of the Indigenous peoples by British (now Canadian) colonialism.

People who take the Rideau Canal tour with me are often astounded to learn about nineteenth century English racism towards the Irish. (Irish Catholics were still facing employment discrimination in Toronto during the 1950s and 1960s.) Many have never heard about the Canadian wing of the Orange Order, an Anglo-Irish and Protestant-based colonial movement to subjugate Irish Catholics, which played a role similar to that of the Ku Klux Klan in attacking African Americans in the United States.

Much work remains to ensure future generations will be similarly surprised to hear about the colonial oppression of Indigenous peoples by Canadian governments in the early 21st century. Meanwhile, a better understanding of the Irish struggle against British colonialism is a great asset in equipping present-day activists to fight Canadian colonialism.

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