Remembering Easter 1916 with pride and, above all, inclusivity
Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30
These days of Easter 2016 offer us an opportunity to be proud of our nation and its achievements. Fittingly, tens of thousands of people lined Dublin's streets on Easter Sunday to witness a large parade commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. And it was those crowds of people, who thronged the 4.5km route across the capital, who were the real stars of this special parade.
The people, from every corner of the country and overseas, observed the festivities, the solemn moments especially, and they cheered, clapped and waved with an impressive mixture of decorum, dignity and bonhomie.
The spirit of the people was fittingly echoed by the words of the chief chaplain to Ireland's Defence Forces, Fr Séamus Madigan. His specially composed prayer, delivered outside the GPO, recalled "all who lost their lives in 1916 and throughout the troubled history of our island".
The four hours of events in the centre of the capital were dignified, appropriate and, above all, inclusive. The British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, was prominent in many of the proceedings.
The overall tone reminded us all that we were saluting the self-sacrifice and courage of the women and men of Easter Week, 1916. But we were also taking stock of how far we have travelled as a nation in the ensuing century, with our successes and our failings, and remembering all the others who suffered and died along many difficult years. The Easter Rising was a seminal event in Ireland's history but it, and ensuing events, also involved considerable loss of life for people who took stridently differing political stances.
All who braved the chilly streets of Dublin, or who followed the commemorations on the excellent television coverage offered by RTE, will have their own stand-out moments of the events. But most viewers are likely to rate highly the moment when children representing each of Ireland's four provinces laid daffodils beneath the porticos of the GPO.
This, we were told, was a symbol of peace and harmony, in which all the people on this island of Ireland face into the next century. It epitomised the spirit of these inclusive and forgiving commemorations of difficult events which helped mould our nation. The choice of a lone piper playing the haunting love song 'Down By the Sally Gardens' was far more appropriate than any martial tune.
Captain Peter Kelleher of the Irish Army read the 1916 Proclamation with a sense of gusto. A century later, those beautiful words still echo the selfless idealism which characterised the mindset of the rebels.
Almost 4,000 members of the Defence Forces, including their superb bands, marched in front of a plethora of military vehicles. Prominent also were the emergency services personnel and Army veterans, many of whom had served on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The great emphasis on the United Nations suitably reminded us all of Ireland's record of involvement in the quest for peace across the globe. This dates back to the 1950s - and so many Irish service personnel have paid the ultimate price for this participation.
President Michael D Higgins had earlier laid a wreath in the Stone Breakers' yard in Kilmainham Gaol, where 14 of the 1916 leaders were executed.
All in all, these events were a triumph and all associated with them are to be congratulated. Pageantry and symbolism are vital parts of any commemoration and it was important that it was all executed with precision to sustain a sense of occasion.