Monday 24 April 2017

Lay of the land: Proclaiming peace and love for the future

For many are moved by that extraordinary Easter - some to the point, arguably, where they are politically fixated on it. Yet our calendars move on. Photo: Mark Condren
For many are moved by that extraordinary Easter - some to the point, arguably, where they are politically fixated on it. Yet our calendars move on. Photo: Mark Condren

Fiona O'Connell

What distinguishes this Sunday is hardly the fact that it's the last one of the month. For on this day - which was Easter Monday 100 years ago - the rising that brought this republic into existence began.

Certainly, this country town is conscious of that phenomenal fact. The county colours - usually everywhere, even without major hurling matches on the horizon - have been replaced by the tricolour. It flies proudly wherever you pass: from McMansions to more modest cottages; shops to supermarkets; pharmacies and pubs; the roofs of new housing estates and five-star former big house hotels.

Indeed, taking the town's temperature, O'Keeffe's on Main Street has transformed itself into a veritable real-time record of that momentous Monday; its windows bedecked with black and white photographs and bi-lingual proclamations. Artist Robert Ballagh's homage to the fallen heroes holed up in the GPO forms one centrepiece. To its right, the headline above a particularly poignant set of images reads: "The Executions: when and where."

A banner draped across the shop front declares: "we serve neither king nor kaiser but Ireland!" Which is the same headline on another poster, dated this day 1916, that goes on to recount how Padraic Pearse "read the proclamation to the bewildered onlookers and proclaimed an Irish republic on behalf of the Irish people... thus began the rising."

For many are moved by that extraordinary Easter - some to the point, arguably, where they are politically fixated on it. Yet our calendars move on. Which is why Easter 2016 came and went some time ago now. Reminding us that 'truth' is really just a meaning that we impose on the random chaos of this existence, where reality is created by nothing more substantial than dreams and ideas. Whose weapons are primarily words, which can wield enough power to make us willing to wage war.

But, thankfully, there are also love letters - such as another poster in that shop window in this country town, in a country that began to come into being on this day 100 years ago.

Dated March 2016, it is written by the pupils of a nearby national school to "the people of Ireland". It encapsulates their vision "for the next 100 years"; ideas such as respect for all, and that we look after "our beautiful environment". But especially "that we shine a light in people's lives, show kindness, and remember that 'one kind word can change someone's entire day.'"

Such compassion can cost lives - but also lead to liberation. As that same passionate schoolteacher poet, with his appropriately alliterative name, proved through his unconditional surrender to "prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population". Purportedly after he witnessed three elderly people die in a storm of bullets.

That is the Pearse who makes me proud to be Irish.

Sunday Independent

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