Proclamation for rebirth of a nation
IT WAS a tale of two proclamations outside the GPO yesterday during the Easter 1916 Rising commemoration ceremony.
And as the sun shone and the chill wind blustered up O'Connell Street, Captain Eoghan O'Sullivan read from the Irish Proclamation, that passionate call to arms forged amid the white heat of revolution 94 years ago.
His voice rang out over the silent crowd of over 2,000 who had gathered along the barriers. "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible," he pronounced, as side-by-side President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen looked on.
The commemoration is one of those set-piece occasions when actions speak louder than words -- a dignified and solemn ritual to honour those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for independence while at the same time celebrating the momentous events which led to the birth of the nation.
Apart from shouted commands to the rows of Army, Navy and Air Corps troops lined along O'Connell Street, the only scripted speech was the reading of the Proclamation.
The rest is a carefully choreographed ceremony from the lowering to half-mast of the flag on the roof of the GPO, to the laying of a wreath by the President, and a minute's silence in memory of those who died during those bloody days of revolution.
But now, a new, bullet-free battle is waging in Ireland, with thousands falling victim to the economic fallout from the Anglo Irish Bank War.
And yesterday, almost a century on from the Rising, another citizen wanted to make a proclamation of his own. Just after noon, the Army head chaplain stepped out of the shadows of the GPO to begin proceedings with a prayer of remembrance.
Monsignor Eoin Thynne didn't speak only of revolutions past. He had the current conflict in his sights. "Enlighten hearts with a willingness to forgive those who have been contaminated by the virus of corruption, selfishness and greed. Those whose pride and arrogance have inflicted misery and hardship on our people," he prayed.
And he continued, quietly but resolutely throwing down a gauntlet to the government ministers standing feet from him -- including Brian Lenihan, Noel Dempsey and Mary Hanafin: "Help us to rediscover the feelings of security, peace and inner comfort. Give us the courage to improve ourselves and to shape a society built on a solid foundation of ethics."
It was a simple but powerful declaration, a reminder that the country's foundations aren't too solid right now. But there were also reminders in the crowd that Ireland has gone through worse times.
Sitting in the front row at yesterday's ceremony were sisters Nora and Mairead deHoir. Their father, Eamon, had survived the Rising, and their aunt, Kathleen, had married Proclamation signatory Thomas Clarke and later became Dublin's first Lady Mayoress.
"I'm very pleased with the day and the whole way it's done," said a spritely Mairead. "I was at the 50th anniversary ceremony, too." And she reckoned there is "no comparison" between these straitened times and the Ireland of decades ago.
"The poverty was horrific then," she said. "What people think is poverty now would've been thought as well-off back then."
Still, as the hour-long ceremony ended with a fly-over by four Air Corps planes, the mood among the crowd lining the capital's main street was subdued rather than celebratory.
Outside the GPO, the James Larkin statue stood with upraised arms, looking for all the world as if he were imploring the skies to explain NAMA.
If Big Jim were on his soapbox yesterday, the mood in the crowd might not have been so subdued, as a quotation from Sean O'Casey on the base of Larkin's statue proclaims.
"He talked to the workers, spoke as only Jim Larkin could speak, not for an assignation with peace, dark obedience, or placid resignation, but trumpet-tongued of resistance to wrong, discontent with leering poverty, and defiance of any power strutting out to stand in the way of their march onward."