In the midst of the beginning of one war, we remember the end of another. It somehow feels fitting to pause on Easter Monday and recall the final conclusion to a centuries-old conflict on our own island as we look east at the brutality that is encroaching Ukraine. Later in the day I will stand with the crowds in Kinsale to commemorate the centenary of the handover of the British Army’s military forts to the Irish Free State.
Harles Fort, the star-shaped citadel that guarded the mouth of Kinsale Harbor for 400 years and was the ultimate colonial power in the 17th century, was an engineering masterpiece of its time. Its 16 meter high walls housed one of Britain’s largest garrisons, withstood sustained attacks and prolonged sieges, and remained prominent as an enduring symbol of the Empire until its eventual surrender to the Free State government in 1922.
The best way to learn history is to experience it, and this is a landmark moment, Borough Mayor Gillian Coughlan believes: “There’s a whole generation that hasn’t learned this history but is now interested in experiencing it .”
As one of Cork’s most popular visitor attractions, it’s an ironic reality that what was once a edifice of colonial oppression has now become a tidy earner of our national purse. In fact, Charles Fort is just one in a phalanx of former symbols of British tyranny that have now morphed into a profitable sector of our tourism economy.
Time clearly heals all historical wounds with castles from Blarney to Lismore, Trim, Cahir and Dublin now adorning a Celtic necklace of antiquity that welcomes paying visitors from around the world. Prove the “ka-ching!” from a cash register drowned out the jingle of sword and musket every time.
England may have been our tyrannical tormentor for maybe 700 years, but now it sends over 4.8 million tourists to our shores each year, a 42 percent market share and a turnover of €1.4 billion. Well, I remember a late-night argument a few years ago at The Bulman Pub next to Charles Fort, where a couple of locals put forward a number of reasons why kicking the British out in 1922 might not have been so wise. Sort of along the lines of that infamous Monty Python sketch – “What did the Romans ever do for us?” – it allowed for a strong argument, and not without merits.
Wars are part of mankind’s journey – a sad fact seemingly doomed to horrific repetition throughout history. Bertrand Russell’s comment that “war doesn’t determine who’s right – only who’s left” is capitalized through countless uprisings, uprisings, rebellions and revolutions.
Nations recover, wounds heal, life slowly reaches equilibrium as seen in a multitude of lands devastated by mankind’s madness.
Standing on the battlements of Charles Fort today, I will pause and imagine a time 100 years from now when the descendants of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin, despite their contradictory pasts, will share a civilized coexistence. We can only hope.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/could-our-past-problems-offer-a-signpost-for-ukraines-future-41562665.html Could our past troubles be a guide to Ukraine’s future?