Tuesday 22 August 2017

'Eyes young again with energy and dreams...'

We marched in the memory of 1916 to reaffirm its goals

Emer Ní Cuív (the great-granddaughter of Eamon de Valera) with her husband John Berkery and their children Sean (5), Eamon (6), Mairead (1) and Aine (3) after the 1916 Easter Rising
Commemoration Parade on Dublin’s O Connell Street. Photo: Frank McGrath
Emer Ní Cuív (the great-granddaughter of Eamon de Valera) with her husband John Berkery and their children Sean (5), Eamon (6), Mairead (1) and Aine (3) after the 1916 Easter Rising Commemoration Parade on Dublin’s O Connell Street. Photo: Frank McGrath
Fr Seamus Madigan
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

There was no need to tread softly on their dreams. They had cleared the road to the Republic, and 100 years later as a nation we finally united as one to march on it in a way they could never have believed.

Children were brought on to the streets to applaud a new Ireland. An Ireland of peace. An Ireland where some possibilities have been realised and more are to come.

Cynicism is cheap and easy. But that's why standing on O'Connell Street this Easter Sunday was priceless.

To be there was to realise the 100th anniversary of the Rising will stand out as a great moment of modern maturity for this country.

One hundred years is not a long time in history. Thousands of the people who lined the route of yesterday's parade through bright and vibrant Dublin were following the footsteps of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

The Rising is not some distant event that we rely on history books to tell us about. It is a story that we have heard from the previous generation, and it is up to us now to pass it on to the next.

Almost every town and village in Ireland had their own incident around those heady months. Almost every family has their link, whether their ancestors were on the frontline, in the RIC or under the bed.

It has taken a century to discover that no matter what side they were on, it's time to live the legacy of that period.

And in doing so, this Republic is reclaiming the ideals of the Proclamation.

"The men, the women and the children of 1916 whose short lives and big dreams extended the horizons of our hopes" were remembered by Father Séamus Madigan, the Head Chaplain of the Defence Forces.

In the proclamation Clarke, Mac Diarmada, Mac Donagh, Pearse, Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett had declared their actions were in the name of God and the dead generations.

Yesterday, Fr Madigan thanked God for those seven signatories and for all the courageous people of Ireland who dared to hope and dream of a brighter tomorrow for our country and all of its citizens.

"Blessed are all those who sought to build a more inclusive and just society, for they are truly the chosen of God," he said.

His prayer was as close as the day came to having a speech.

As President Michael D Higgins arrived under garda escort on to O'Connell Street, a ripple of quiet applause ran through the crowd.

There on that exact spot where the Rising centred he stood as the head of our State. He inspected a Presidential Guard of Honour from the Defence Forces before being joined by the acting Taoiseach.

Everything happened in perfect motion. As the Tricolour over the GPO was lowered to half-mast, the most solemn hush fell over the crowds. Silence.

A piper played a lament as children from the four provinces laid daffodils and then the band struck up a slow but powerful rendition of 'Danny Boy'.

How fitting they would play a melody so twee that we often struggle to embrace it. Yesterday it sat flawlessly, tugging on emotions.

Just 10 days ago the same streets through the city had been thronged with people who were also espousing the greatness of our culture. But the effervescent party atmosphere, the pageantry and drinking associated with St Patrick's Day, spoke of a different Ireland than the one commemorated yesterday.

While March 17 is our national holiday, Easter should now be our national day.

This was a day about more than green flags and mythical tales.

It was, in the words of Fr Madigan, about giving us "the courage to step on new ground, eyes young again with energy and dreams. Help us to believe in beginnings, to listen to the voices that challenge and to sing a new song for Ireland".

It took Captain Peter Kelleher of the 27th battalion in Dundalk more than four minutes to read out the Proclamation to this generation of Irishmen and Irishwomen.

Again, only the shivering wind that would shake far more than barley could be heard as a backdrop to his seamless performance.

"I'm humbled by the whole experience, to walk in the footsteps of the men and women who went through 1916," he said afterwards.

By the time a most upbeat rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann rang out across the capital and six PC Pilatus aircraft zoomed overhead it was clear this was a commemoration, not a celebration.

There was room for everybody: Óglaigh na hÉireann, An Garda Síochána, Dublin Fire Brigade, the Irish Prison Service, Customs, the National Ambulance Service, St John's Ambulance Service, the Irish Red Cross, the Irish Coast Guard, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Civil Defence, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association and the Organisation of Ex-Service Men and Women.

In total 3,500 of them streamed past the President and politicians of all flags.

This was a commemoration by the people of Ireland for the people of Ireland. It has taken a century to get here, but that is a short time in history.

Imagine what we can achieve in the next 100 years if we reassign ourselves to the goals of 1916.

We have marched in the memory of 1916, and we no longer have only dreams.

We have freedom, peace and enlightened potential.

Irish Independent

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