Friday 28 October 2016

Thoughtful ceremonies mark the first of the 1916 executions at Kilmainham

Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30

Gunner Shane Lennon from 2 Artillery Regiment, Custume Barracks. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Gunner Shane Lennon from 2 Artillery Regiment, Custume Barracks. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Relatives of Thomas MacDonagh. Picture; Gerry Mooney
The wreaths are brought forward. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Patrick Pearse, great grand nephew of Padraig Pearse. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Three times a single, muffled drum beat sounded in a dull tone that seemed to capture the final extinguishment of a noble heart.

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A shaft of sunshine broke the chill shade of the Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin as the first of the individual State ceremonies was held to mark the executions of Pádraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh.

The executions had taken place at dawn, before a firing squad of 12 nervous, young men from the Sherwood Foresters - citizen soldiers who joined up to fight in the trenches of France and Belgium during WWI but instead, found themselves in Dublin.

In his last moments, MacDonagh pitied them their task and offered them his cigarettes.

"They all died well but MacDonagh died like a prince," it was said afterwards.

Each of the ceremonies held yesterday was unique and moving in its own right as we thought of their sacrifice - and the pain and loss their families endured for generations afterwards.

And while one State ceremony for all 14 executed men might have sufficed - it would not have done them justice.

It was right and proper that we should stand there and remember each one with gratitude and reflection.

Each event saw the reading of the trial documents relating to the charge against each of the accused men, the plea that was entered, and the verdict of the court.

Members of the Capuchin Friars from Church Street read from the memoirs of the friar who attended each of the men prior to their executions.

Acting Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly gave an address at the first ceremony, held for Pádraig Pearse, while Minister of State Joe McHugh attended the ceremony for Thomas Clarke, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan speaking at the event for Thomas MacDonagh.

Mr Kelly said that the common thread uniting the leaders was that they believed in Ireland as a sovereign, independent state and pledged their lives to that cause.

"Now, one hundred years on, we are challenged to live up to the ideals and aspirations of Pearse and the other leaders for an Ireland that 'declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation'," he said.

Relatives of Pearse and MacDonagh were in attendance. However, a representative from the Kilmainham museum laid a wreath in honour of Clarke, with none of his relatives present.

A minute of silence was held for each, ended by a muffled drum beat before a piper's lament was played, followed by the Last Post.

The national flag was then hoisted to full mast and the Reveille sounded before the national anthem was played.

Pádraig Pearse's great grand-nephew, Patrick Pearse, who laid the wreath on behalf of his relative, said he was "deeply honoured", while Barbara MacDonagh Cashin from Leixlip said she found the ceremony to be extremely moving.

Ceremonies for Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Michael O'Hanrahan and William Pearse will be held today.

Irish Independent

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