Saturday 22 July 2017

Restored GPO takes centre stage in capital celebrations

Dublin city

Captain Peter Kelleher from the 27th Infantry Battalion reads the Proclamation at the GPO on O'Connell Street on March 27, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.
Captain Peter Kelleher from the 27th Infantry Battalion reads the Proclamation at the GPO on O'Connell Street on March 27, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.
1916 Commemorative Day in Swords, Co Dublin
Members of the Defence Forces (from left) Able Seaman Leia Wall, Army Private Chloe Carroll, and Air Corps Sgt Anne Kelly arrive for the Commemoration for women in the 1916 Rising at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Photo Brian Lawless/PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a requiem Mass in commemoration of the Easter Rising, at the Church of the Most Sacred Heart, Arbour Hill. Photo: Fergal Phillips

With bus tours, parades, theatre and a flagship exhibition at the GPO on O'Connell Street, the capital did itself proud in its remembrance of 1916.

In March, sailors, soldiers, and airwomen of the Defence Forces took part in the International Women's Day event in Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Lieutenant Colonel Mary Carroll, Officer Commanding (1st Inf Batt) said: "Today we are honouring the role of women in 1916. Considering universal suffrage was not wideplace at the time, they broke the mould for women with their bravery."

On Easter Sunday, March 27, the main State commemoration ceremony took place in Dublin, starting with a morning parade by members of the Defence Forces, gardaí and emergency services, from St Stephen's Green to College Green.

At the GPO, Captain Peter Kelleher read the Proclamation, before Taoiseach Enda Kenny addressed the crowd. In recognition of the sacrifice made by the rebels, a minute's silence was observed by those present, including President Michael D Higgins. The President was joined at the event by former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, and former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, among others.

The GPO itself underwent a major restoration and saw the opening of a powerful permanent exhibition, GPO Witness History, which has seen enormous numbers pass through its doors since it opened in April.

The City Council delivered two of the Permanent Reminder projects of the Rising - the restoration of Richmond Barracks, Inchicore, where the 1916 courts martial were held, and No 14 Henrietta Street, a formerly grand Georgian townhouse which by 1916 was a tenement packed with poverty-stricken Dubliners.

The City Council also supported Dubliner Jimmy Wren's monumental book 'The GPO Garrison Easter 1916', a biographical dictionary which settles once and for all the arguments over who was in the GPO.

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Down the road, City Hall held a lunchtime lecture series in April at the Council Chamber on Dame Street to honour "the role of the Corporation, its staff and the 1916 Rising". City Hall was a rebel garrison during the Rising.

Dr Mary Clark curated the lecture series, which was arranged by Dublin City Library and Archive. She said the role of City Hall had been overlooked during the 50th anniversary commemorations.

"About half of the staff of Dublin City Council went down to fight at the time, a very high proportion," she explains, so the council wanted its role to be recognised this year.

She continues: "Of course, a famous employee of Dublin City Council was Eamonn Ceannt, one of the signatories." Ceannt worked in the Rates Office, while Major John MacBride was the water bailiff.

Meanwhile, the leader of the City Hall garrison was Seán Connolly, who worked in motor tax. He was subsequently killed by a sniper, as was unarmed councillor Richard O'Carroll. On April 5, researcher and editor Conor McNamara gave a lecture on Connolly entitled Seán Connolly, City Hall and the 1916 Rising.

Dr Clark said that from the outset, there was a "huge response" to the lecture series and each event attracted up to 130 people.

On April 12, Major John MacBride and Jacob's Factory Garrison was the subject of the lecture by Séamas Ó Maitiú: Siege Mentalities: The Occupation of Jacob's Factory Easter 1916. Ó Maitiú is a former secondary teacher at Padraig Pearse's alma mater, CBS Westland Row.

Dublin Fire Brigade played a pivotal role in the rebellion, inspiring the lecture Dublin Fire Brigade and the 1916 Rising, by Las Fallon, a firefighter in Dublin.

For a lively and rousing finale to the series, on April 26, City Hall played host to Songs of the 1916 Rising with Francis Devine and Friends. For his lecture, Devine brought song sheets so the crowd could join in a sing-song of rebel songs from the time.

As well as the series, the original Proclamation belonging to Nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell went on display at City Hall, as well as Countess Markievicz's banner, attracting 5,000 visitors alone in a historic year for the council and its city.

Irish Independent

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