Changed times, but some things remain the same
THE commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising has always been a solemn occasion for the Fianna Fail faithful -- but it felt especially grim yesterday.
There was glorious sunny weather for much of the ceremony in Dublin's Arbour Hill cemetery, but even the party loyalists seemed to find it hard to shake off the prevailing economic gloom that is putting the legacy of Pearse, Connolly and the other signatories of the Proclamation under threat.
But there was quite a roll call of Fianna Fail's familiar faces -- led of course by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his wife Mary, who is still a key figure in his constituency organisation in Offaly. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also there, as was his brother Maurice. The cabinet ministers included new Defence Minister Tony Killeen, new Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
Mary Hanafin, in a suitably patriotic green dress, was given the honour of reading the 1916 Proclamation. This was most likely to emphasise the party's commitment to equality than any reassurance she had not been "demoted" from Social and Family Affairs to Tourism, Culture and Sport.
But the phrases in the Proclamation she read out seemed to take on a different meaning this time around. Our "gallant allies in Europe" are still the Germans -- this time giving us vital support through the European Central Bank rather than sending 20,000 guns and one million rounds of ammunition. There was the reference to overcoming the "differences carefully fostered by an alien government" -- the public sector unions might have their own views on who the alien government is this time around.
And at a time when bankers are hanging on to their €1m bonuses, the nation's children must surely question why they should "sacrifice themselves for the common good".
One of the most touching moments came when a group of children (including Mr Cowen's youngest daughter Maedhbh) laid down Easter Lillies in memory of those who fought in 1916. Arbour Hill is the resting place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising -- and plans are afoot to bring back the remains of Thomas Kent from Cork Prison.
Mr Cowen dutifully delivered his speech about the generation who "fought heroically to vindicate the Irish people's right to self-determination".
After the wreath-laying ceremony, the crowd was told that tea and sandwiches were available at the nearby Collins Barracks, but "nothing stronger than that". Times, indeed, have changed.