PEOPLE are being asked to vote for the AK-47 - an assault rifle once favoured by the IRA - as one of 10 objects being considered as most representative of modern Ireland.
It’s part of a the ‘History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ project - a collaboration between the National Museum of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy and the Irish Times.
According to Deaglán de Bréadún of the Irish Times: “It’s a hackneyed phrase, but ‘Peace in our time’ certainly applies in light of the destruction of IRA weapons, an action which ended the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict that had cost over 3,500 lives.
“Small dissident groups remain active, but the mainstream of the republican tradition has accepted peaceful methods as the only way forward.”
The Kalashnikov - or ‘avtomat’ - as it is known in the factory in Izhevsk where guns have been manufactured since the Napoleonic wars - is probably the most ubiquitous weapon in the world.
It’s estimated about 100 million AK-47s have been used by the IRA, al-Qaeda, the Viet Cong, Hamas and Hezbollah, amongst other groups over the past half century.
Russian Defence Minsiter Dmitry Rogozhin recently said that when he was Russia’s ambassador to NATO he heard western colleagues state: “Optimists these days learn English, pessimists learn Chinese, but realists learn how to operate an AK-47.”
And famously US soldiers fighting in Vietnam exchanged M16 rifles for AK-47s captured from enemy fighters because they didn’t break down in the humidity.
According to de Bréadun the selection of the weapon for the ‘100 objects’ scheme was representative of the republican tradition accepting there was no place for the AK-47 in modern Ireland.
“Tony Blair used the term ‘seismic shift’ to describe this turn of events, and the earth has indeed moved for both traditions in the North.
“Their swords have been turned into ploughshares, and the former young tiger of unionism, Peter Robinson, now leads the Northern Ireland Executive in partnership with one-time IRA leader Martin McGuinness. It’s an outcome that many longed for but few dared hope would ever happen.
“The decommissioned weapon is the rock upon which the power-sharing arrangement rests, and the former instrument of destruction has become a symbol of optimism for the future. Much credit is due to all who helped bring about decommissioning, not least Canada’s General John de Chastelain, who had the difficult task of overseeing the process.
“As Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’”