Saturday 17 March 2018

First salvos in the battle to mark 1916 centenary

Separate State and Sinn Fein commemorations on anniversary of O'Donovan Rossa funeral

RIVAL NARRATIVES: The official event to mark the anniversary of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral
RIVAL NARRATIVES: The official event to mark the anniversary of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral
The Sinn Fein-organised version reenactment of the O'Donovan Rossa funeral
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The war over ownership of the 1916 Easter Rising centenary celebrations has kicked off, with the Government and Sinn Fein hosting near-identical events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the funeral of Fenian leader Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa.

President Michael D Higgins led the official State commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday morning, before a procession of Sinn Fein members descended on the graveyard hours later.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys questioned the need for two similar celebrations to celebrate a pivotal event in Ireland's fight for independence from British rule.

"I don't know what they are doing but it seems to me to be a bit of duplication but nonetheless they can do whatever they want," Ms Humphrey's said.

She added: "We had a very respectful and a very inclusive programme and I was delighted to see that all political parties were represented."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who delivered an address at O'Donovan Rossa's graveside as part of his party's commemoration, insisted that his party was not trying to hijack the State's official celebrations.

"There is no conflict whatsoever," Mr Adams told the Sunday Independent.

He added: "This is a popular event, a o'dnovan rospeople's event and it's a good event. We need another rising, a peaceful and democratic one, but that's what we need."

O'Donovan Rossa's funeral was the scene of Padraig Pearse's famous graveside oration, which unified the republican movement and ultimately led to the Easter Rising less than a year later.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ms Humphreys joined President Higgins for a solemn ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery, which culminated with a dramatic reading of Pearse's call to Ireland's republican movements.

Mr Higgins led the commemorations by laying a wreath while a volley of shots rang out and the Tricolour was raised as Amhran na bhFiann played.

The event included a prayer by Defence Forces chaplain Fr Robert McCabe, a minute's silence and a piper's lament.

The Taoiseach described O'Donovan Rossa, who was nicknamed Dynamite for orchestrating the first-ever republican bombings in British cities, as an influential figure in Irish history.

"Even 100 years after his death, his name is synonymous with the Fenians and with Irish Nationalism," said Mr Kenny. "The liberation of his country became his life's ambition. His funeral remains one of the pivotal moments in Irish history and was an occasion that would be hugely instrumental in shaping the future of our nation."

Ms Humphreys, whose office is overseeing the 40-plus events marking the Easter Rising, said the re-enactment was the official start of the centenary celebrations which she said would be "appropriate and respectful".

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein hosted its own re-enactment of the O'Donovan Rossa funeral procession from City Hall in Dublin to Glasnevin cemetery.

Sinn Fein members, dressed in traditional clothing, marched alongside a horsedrawn funeral carriage through the city centre. Senior party figures in attendance included Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Sunday Independent

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