Thursday 29 September 2016

'Closer to the real thing' as people march for 'forgotten, ignored and marginalised'

Published 25/04/2016 | 02:30

Aoife Eakins, Linden Haughian and Sinead Martin of the St Joseph’s Pipe Band from Longstone, Co Down who led the Reclaim 1916 parade from Merrion Square to the GPO yesterday. Inset left: Clara Purcell. Photos: Stephen Collins
Aoife Eakins, Linden Haughian and Sinead Martin of the St Joseph’s Pipe Band from Longstone, Co Down who led the Reclaim 1916 parade from Merrion Square to the GPO yesterday. Inset left: Clara Purcell. Photos: Stephen Collins
Clara Purcell at Reclaim 1916 Parade yesterday. Photo: Stephen Collins

Two American tourists, straight off their trans-atlantic flight, were delighted by the scenes playing out before their eyes.

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Women in Edwardian dresses congregated on Merrion Square, while troops in Irish Volunteer and Irish Civil Army uniforms chatted casually as they leaned on wooden rifles.

There were no barricades at the Reclaim 1916 'People's Parade' - everyone was free to intermingle as they prepared to march on the GPO.

Slightly chaotic, agreed the visitors from Detroit, "but all the closer to the original event".

Chief patron of this citizens' initiative was artist Robert Ballagh, who had railed against the State commemorations.

He said he wanted the 'People's Parade' to be a chance for "all citizens of Ireland, including the forgotten, the ignored, marginalised and discriminated against" to gather together to celebrate a "transformative moment" in our history.

Among the many groups which took part were trade unions, Justice for Clerys workers, Pavee Point and the Palestinian Community, while a sign among the parade warned that "only our rivers run free".

There was a strong Sinn Féin presence, with Martin McGuinness dressed as a country gent in tweeds marching alongside Gerry Adams.

The parade was led by the St Joseph's Pipe band from Longstone, Co Down, with a large contingent down from Northern Ireland.

Thousands took part, and at the GPO large banners were strung across the colonnade.

There was lively traditional music from award-winning uilleann piper Tiarnain Ó Duinchinn, harpists Laoise Kelly and Michelle Mulcahy, and flautist Emer Mayock. Then Don Baker took to the stage to play the blues.

Damian Dempsey told the crowd he would try to sing his song about James Connolly "without crying".

James Connolly Heron gave a speech against the "bankers, the chancers and the cheats".

And there was a video message from Panti Bliss, while Frances Black sang 'The Foggy Dew'.

Four generations of the Sargent family, from Crumlin, Dublin, were among those enjoying the day.

Breda Sargent explained she and daughter Debbie had avoided the State commemorations because they felt they did "not include the people".

Irish Independent

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