The constitution of a state yet to come: the unbroken promise of the Half-Proclamation

Daniel Jewesbury

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The document known as the ‘half-proclamation’ is to be found in a number of places, including the National Archives of Ireland, and, notably, in the court martial papers of Sean McDermott, in the National Archives at Kew, in London. The document was printed by the Dublin Metropolitan Police following their raid on Liberty Hall, immediately after the 1916 Rising, and shows the last three paragraphs and the names of the signatories to the Proclamation.This paper treats the half-proclamation as a document with an uncertain status; furthermore it argues that this uncertainty is potentially productive of new meanings and readings of the document, of the events which led to its production, and of the state whose inception it witnessed. Within Ireland, the half-proclamation is a venerated constitutional document, but through its fragmentary character it acquires also the semi-religious status of a relic, more so even than the full Proclamation itself; the fact of its having been printed by Crown forces also serves to produce a complex aura of martyrdom around the document, very much in keeping with the doctrine of blood sacrifice espoused by the Rising’s chief players. Within the British National Archives, the half-proclamation is filed alongside radical publications, handwritten orders and the warrants for execution of the conspirators. The dossier containing the document remained classified until 1992, and it is not separately indexed in the archive’s catalogue. This chapter seeks to dramatise fully the ambivalence of the half-proclamation, as both an ‘authentic fragment’ and an illegitimate copy; a palimpsest of a document which for all its fame as an image has no legal standing in Ireland, something it only acquires in this bastardised form as criminal evidence. The chapter also examines the ‘empty half’ of the half-proclamation, which I argue is the most important piece of blank paper in the cultural history of Ireland. In the immediate aftermath of the Rising, this is a space onto which the most lurid colonial fantasies of the brutality and disloyalty of the Irish could be projected. A century later, at a time when the legitimacy of another state is under sustained interrogation, this empty space becomes a useful place in which to inscribe new proclamations of the aspirations and demands of the citizenry.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMaking 1916: The Material and Visual Culture of the Easter Rising
    EditorsLisa Godson, Joanna Brück
    Place of PublicationLiverpool
    PublisherUniversity of Liverpool
    ISBN (Print)978-1-78138-122-9
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2015


    • Material Culture
    • Easter Rising
    • 1916
    • Sean McDermott
    • Sean Mac Diarmada
    • Proclamation
    • Half-Proclamation
    • Bhabha
    • Ireland
    • History


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