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Martin J. Kelly Annual Writing Contest

Contest Details

The Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area has renamed its annual writing contest in honor of Martin J. Kelly, a founding member of the society and its past president for 23 years until his passing on July 2, 2015. To learn more about Martin, please click here.

The full details, including how to enter the contest are found by clicking here.

Helpful Hints

For this year’s
Martin J. Kelly Annual Writing Contest we are asking you to identify a main idea in 
the text called the Proclamation, a document proclaiming Ireland’s right to be a nation independent from English rule, and to analyze how the authors of the Proclamation used rhetorical devices to develop the main idea.  A copy of the Proclamation, which was asserted 100 years ago in 1916, can be viewed by clicking here.

About the Proclamation:  The Proclamation was written by a group of rebel leaders who advocated and fought for Ireland’s independence from England.  The Proclamation was read in public on April 24, 1916 in Dublin at the start of an armed revolt against English rule of Ireland.  Although the rebels surrendered after a six day struggle, Ireland eventually did become an independent state partly because of the armed revolt of 1916, called the Easter Rising.

We are modeling our contest essay after the new SAT Essay which will be the format used in the SAT tests given after March 2016.  In these Helpful Hints we will reprint the prompt which the SAT will use in its essay challenges, and we will introduce you to the SAT grading guide.  We will also provide you with background material about the Easter Rising of 1916 at which the Proclamation was read.  First the SAT:

Each SAT Essay will have this prompt:

As you read the passage below [the passage we use for our contest], consider how the authors of the Proclamation use

            *evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

            *reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

*stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

 Write an essay in which you explain how the authors of the Proclamation build an argument to persuade their audience [the people of Ireland] of the legitimacy of their claim.  In your essay, analyze how the authors use one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of their argument.  Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the Proclamation.  Your essay should not explain whether you agree with the claims, but rather explain how the authors build an argument to persuade the audience. 

The rubric (grading guide) for the SAT Essay lists the features which the SAT values in an essay.  Some of the features are as follows:

*a precise central claim

*a skillful introduction and closing

*a wide variety of sentence structure

*a formal style and objective tone

*a command of the conventions of standard written English

You can find more about the new SAT Essay and sample essays and rater comments at collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/inside-the-test/essay.

As for your Irish Proclamation essay, you will start with a central claim or controlling idea (sometimes called a topic statement).  You may want to analyze why the writers of the Proclamation made frequent use of the pronouns “we” and “our” and references in the beginning and at the end to God.  You may want to assess what the authors’ word choices added to the power of their message.  You will want to allude to the authors’ appeals to the passions of the Irish people and to their common values.  

Your textual analysis will require you to identify some of the rhetorical devices the writers of the Proclamation used to persuade the Irish people to accept that the struggle for Irish independence is a just cause which they should join.  Rhetoric, as you have learned in class, is the art of persuasive communication, sometimes informally called the art of putting across a message.

Every textual analysis must take into account the intended audience.  What did the writers do to get and keep their reader’s attention?  Some writers appeal to the hearts of their listeners, referring to shared values, such as patriotism and religion.  Other writers appeal to the sense of reason with the use of facts or logic.  Refer to these appeals in your essay. 

Very important in persuasive discourse is that the authors should appear credible to the audience.  How do the authors of the Proclamation project integrity, honesty and trustworthiness to the listeners?  Look at the choice of words and the decisions on sentence length.  How do these choices help the writers achieve the goal of persuading the Irish people to follow their leadership?

Text analysis must, of course, look at the text itself to recognize what the writer of the text did to enliven the text and to provide aids to understanding.  Below are some of the rhetorical devices, no doubt familiar to you, which the writers of the Proclamation might have used in the text:

Metaphor, Simile:  Comparison intended to make something clear or to add color to the text.  For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. used a banking metaphor to call the Emancipation Proclamation a “promissory note” upon which America has written a “bad check” which has been marked “insufficient funds.”

Parallelism:  Use of grammatically similar words, phrases or clauses to achieve emphasis and to make the presentation memorably.  For example, our government is said to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Winston Churchill told the English people when England was threatened by invasion, “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight … in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Antithesis:  Like parallelism, this device repeats language with the purpose of calling attention to contrasts or opposites.  In the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens writes: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ….”  John F. Kennedy, in his first inaugural address, told the American people, “Ask not what your country can do for, but ask what you can do for your country.”

There are other rhetorical devices, too, which you can research.  But your essay should not be just a collection of rhetorical devices.  You should emphasize one or more of the rhetorical devices used by the authors, but more importantly, yours will be an even better essay if it projects that you have engaged the text as if you were a part of an attentive audience that understands its main idea and appreciates how the writers of the Proclamation added color and power to the text.  Remember your essay will be 200 to 250 well-chosen words.

The year 2016 is the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin.  The event is easily searched.  You will find that the Rising, although a military failure, helped to lead to the independence of Ireland as a nation.  The Proclamation was read at the very start of the Rising, at noon on April 24, 1916.  To many in Ireland, the Proclamation is its Declaration of Independence.  You can find a brief essay on the six day conflict which is called the Easter Rising, entitled “April 24 – 29, 1916”, by clicking here.

Have fun!!!

I hope these notes are of some help to you.  Your teacher will give you even more valuable assistance.  Every writer needs an editor, so use your friends and family as your preliminary audience.  Contact me if you think I can help: webmaster@irish-society.org.

With respect,

John Walsh
Contest Manager

Resource Files:
2016 Helpful Hints - pdf version

The Proclamation

Essay: April 24-29, 1916