Saturday 27 December 2014

Higgins marks Gun Running centenary

Published 27/07/2014 | 17:34

President Michael D Higgins is given a Guard of Honour during a ceremony to commemorate a century since the landing of arms at Howth east pier
President Michael D Higgins is given a Guard of Honour during a ceremony to commemorate a century since the landing of arms at Howth east pier

President Michael D Higgins has said the centenary of the extraordinary Howth Gun Running is a challenge to remember the dream of a truly inclusive republic.

On the pier where the Asgard landed a cargo of 900 German rifles on July 26 1914, descendants of the yacht's skipper Erskine Childers joined scores of dignitaries and members of the public to mark the daring mission.

President Higgins said the commemoration should be used to recall a time of hope and renewal.

"We are challenged to remember the courage of those who sought to not only conceive of independence but of a real republican independence that involved a better and more just future for all of the citizens of Ireland, one that would enable them to realise that dream of a truly inclusive society in which all our citizens are treated with respect and enabled to make their unique contributions," he said.

The President said the spirit of 100 years ago could be seen in the way the celebration on the east pier at Howth was organised.

Nessa Childers, the Independent MEP and grand-daughter of the captain of the Asgard, also attended the event.

The Howth Gun Running followed the smuggling of munitions into Larne by the Ulster Volunteer Force and was intended to arm the Irish Volunteers with 900 Mauser rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition to defend the principles of Home Rule.

President Higgins said those involved behind the plot were motivated by defensive rather than offensive ideals.

The weapons, sourced in Germany and originally used in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, were put on board the Asgard in the North Sea.

On board were Erskine Childers and his wife Molly, maritime pioneer and republican Conor O'Brien, two islanders from Gola off Donegal, Patrick McGinley and Charles Dugen, and Mary Spring Rice.

The official commemoration was marked by a canon shot to signal the launch of a sail-in of the Asgard 3 yacht as it replicated the landing of the original yacht on July 26 1914.

A team of Volunteers were also on the quayside portraying the ranks of Fianna Eireann and Irish Citizen Army who, led by Countess Markievizc, collected the consignment.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht which is charged with overseeing the decade of commemorations Ireland is celebrating, said: "I am pleased to be part of commemorations of these important events in our history.

"There is no doubt that the landing of arms in Howth was a significant milestone along the road to Easter 1916 and I am delighted to support arrangements to mark this centenary in an appropriate way."

As part of the centenary commemorations a wreath was also laid in Glasnevin Cemetery in honour of the people killed on Bachelor's Walk in clashes with British soldiers on the day of the smuggling.

Three people were shot dead and more than 30 wounded by the army when a crowd of about 1,000 people armed only with stones, bottles and rotten fruit confronted troops.

Mary Duffy, a 56-year-old widow whose son was in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Patrick Quinn, aged 50 and a father-of-six, and 17-year-old messenger boy James Brennan died at the scene. A fourth, Sylvester Pidgeon, died later after suffering wounds.

The centenary was also marked with a memorial mass at the Pro Cathedral on Marlborough Street earlier in the day attended by the President and Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

Press Association

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