Wednesday 14 November 2018

Taoiseach takes time out to join dwindling crowd at 1916 ceremony

Miriam Lord

IN the morning, the Taoiseach attended a ceremony commemorating the men and women who died for Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising.

By midday, he was in Iveagh House, batting for Europe with the rest of the cabinet.

Bertie Ahern's lunchtime engagement in the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday - he launched the Government's referendum campaign urging acceptance of the Nice Treaty - highlighted how much the country has changed since 1916.

But in a busy, prosperous and outward looking nation, the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and died for their country 85 years ago has not been forgotten.

Yesterday, as other years, the annual 1916 commemoration ceremony took place in Arbour Hill cemetery. It was an event which was once attended by big crowds, but not anymore.

On a busy working day in the city, the ritual and pomp of this traditional observance went largely unnoticed.

The President was also there along with the Council of State, members of the cabinet and opposition, defence force chiefs and the garda commissioner, church leaders and the relatives of those who fought in 1916.

Requiem Mass was offered in the Church of the Most Sacred Heart for those who died in the Rising. After the service President McAleese laid a wreath at the graves of the 1916 leaders.

Chief Celebrant Bishop Donal Murray told the congregation we should not forget those who died but added: "Our heritage is not a prison, it is a resource." The Taoiseach then invited President McAleese to lay a wreath on behalf of the people. After a minute's silence, the army band played the Last Post.

Later the crowd dispersed, the soldiers marched away and President McAleese left under motor cycle escort. And the busy city didn't as much as blink.

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