An Easter Rising specialist has criticised as “inaccurate” the depiction of the Church in RTÉ’s drama Rebellion.
Historian Dr Shane Kenna told The Irish Catholic that the programme’s depiction of the then Archbishop of Dublin William Walsh was particularly “unfair”.
“Walsh was a nationalist and while he wasn’t a fan of the Rising he was very sympathetic to the ordinary people of Dublin. That was somewhat brushed aside in his depiction in Rebellion,” Dr Kenna said, adding that “such an iconic figure in Irish life deserved a lot more time in the programme”.
In one scene, the archbishop describes the rebels as “hooligans” and forbids a priest from further contact with them.
“The most pressing concern is to preserve the treasures of Mother Church. We must see to the safety of all moveable Church property,” he said, adding that their “primary duty is to the Church”.
Dr Kenna said this particular scene was “unfair” because the archbishop “would have been somewhat sympathetic to the ambition of the Rebellion”.
“At the time Archbishop Walsh opened the pro-cathedral to the ordinary people of Dublin. He risked the fact that the ordinary people could have damaged the church, the fact that the church itself could then be seen as somewhere to be attacked by the British Army or by the rebels. By opening the church up to the people he was putting Church property at risk,” he said.
Dr Kenna also insisted Rebellion’s depiction of priests was imbalanced.
“In 1916, of the priests on the streets, there were an awful lot of honourable men. They tended to the sick, they gave last rites to the dying, they heard confessions in the GPO and reassured and comforted families as well,” he said.
Dr Kenna singled out the Capuchins in particular for their “outstanding” work.
“They were heavily involved in trying to negotiate the surrender between the rebels and Brigadier General Lowe. The Capuchins were the ones risking their lives, going through barricades, to bring messages back and forth. So, I thought the depiction was quite inaccurate,” he said.