Studies journal continues to provoke with 1916 views

Studies enjoys the rare distinction, as an Irish periodical, of pre-existing the Easter Rising of 1916, whose centenary is now being commemorated. Founded in 1912, the summer issue of that year contained a poem by one of the future leaders of the rebellion, Joseph Mary Plunkett. In spring of the following year, Pádraig Pearse’s essay, ‘Some Aspects of Irish Literature’ appeared. However, in 1916 itself, due to British censorship, any direct political commentary on what had just happened in Ireland had to be made reservedly.

It was in Studies in 1966 that former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgearld began to talk of how the violent actions commited by those who led Ireland through 1916 should not be revered. Fr Frank Shaw SJ pushed this way of thinking further by questioning Pádraig Pearse’s virtue, causing much controversy. In this latest edition of Studies, Séamus Murphy dedicates his robust, provocative piece, ‘Dark Liturgy – Bloody Praxis’, to the memory of his older Jesuit colleague Fr Shaw, and readers familiar with Shaw’s ‘The Canon of Irish History’ will recognise the provenance of Dr Murphy’s thinking. His focus is partly on Pearse’s deployment of the notion of blood-sacrifice, and the pseudo-religious language used in the process. Clearly Studies holds a convincing historic association with 1916, and the ghost of Frank Shaw and his revisionism drifts through this current issue.

Dr Oliver Rafferty’s intriguing essay, ‘The Church and the Easter Rising’, traces the Catholic Bishops uncertainties and divisions as to how best to respond to the crisis unfolding around them. Professor Ronan Fanning, author of the magisterial Fatal Path: British Government and Irish Revolution 1910–1922 (2013) provides a fascinating picture of the early stages of Éamon de Valera’s ascent, his ‘apotheosis’, to become the dominant figure in Irish politics during some forty years. Essays in this issue by J Anthony Gaughan and Mairéad Carew discuss two other important figures from the period. Fr Gaughan writes on Alfred O’Rahilly, who, as still a Jesuit scholastic when Studies was founded, helped with its management and contributed a wide variety of articles and book reviews to the earliest issues. Dr Carew stresses the importance of Eoin MacNeill’s role in the vital work of cultural revitalisation in later years.

Dr Sylvie Kleinman presents an enlightening discussion of how America and France in particular celebrated the centenaries of their revolutions, using these as a context within which to consider what Ireland should and should not be doing now. John Swift writes, ‘The period around 1916 is too far away for most of us to comprehend intuitively its mind-sets and dynamics … but near enough – and familiar enough from school learning and casual reading – to allow us the easy assumption that we know it well’.

Ireland has, in truth, achieved much in a hundred years and, in some ways, could even be said to have led the world. Stephen Collins ends his thoughtful piece on what 1916 means to us now by regretting ‘that the decade of commemoration taken, as a whole, does not appear to have encouraged the open minded and honest examination of the past that could feed into a more balanced view of the present’. It is not too late.

Studies is a publication of the Irish Jesuits. Founded in 1912, it examines Irish social, political, cultural and economic issues in the light of Christian values and explores the Irish dimension in literature, history, philosophy and religion. Studies spring edition 2016 is available from and

Price €10.

Articles | Spring 16

Seamus Murphy SJ, Dark Liturgy, Bloody Praxis: the 1916 Rising

Ronan Fanning, 1917: The Metamorphosis of Éamon de Valera

Sylvie Kleinman, Revolutionary Commemoration

Stephen Collins, 1916 and What It Means Today

Oliver Rafferty SJ, The Church and the Rising

J Anthony Gaughan, Alfred O’Rahilly: Creative Revolutionary

Mairéad Carew, Eoin MacNeill: Revolutionary Cultural Ideologue

Thomas O’Grady, Observe a Son of Munster Marching Towards the Somme

John Swift, Comprehending the Irish Revolutionary Generations

Dónal O’Donnell, Irish Legal History of the Twentieth Century