The Irish army in dress uniform looked great, the politicians behaved in a dignified manner and refrained from scoring points off each other, the sun shone, and 120,000 people turned out to enjoy the event.
When Captain Tom Ryan read Ireland’s declaration of independence, the 1916 Proclamation, there wasn’t a dry eye on O’Connell Street. Irish Americans stood especially tall when he reached the second sentence: “Supported by her exiled children in America, [Ireland] strikes in full confidence of victory.”
In the run-up to the commemoration, anyone reading the Irish newspapers would have imagined it was hugely controversial.
Anti-republican columnists said the event would give a morale boost to the IRA, would insult the British who regarded the 1916 rebels as terrorists, would be seen as a snub to those Irishmen who died fighting for Britain in World War I, and would glorify militarism.
In the end, not only did all the main parties, with the exception of the unionists, attend, but so did the British ambassador, Stewart Eldon, along with other dignitaries.
The president led the commemoration, laying the wreath for those who laid down their lives for Irish freedom. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke eloquently. The crowd sang the Irish national anthem at full throat, and rounded it off with a huge cheer.
Afterwards, Ahern said the next big day would be the centenary of the Rising in 2016, adding that such an event will require much preparation.
This to be welcomed. But 1916 commemorates a bold strike for Irish freedom, something which has still not been completely achieved.
A more urgent task for Ahern and his government is to prepare for the re-unification of the country. To use a phrase from America’s lexicon, he should keep his eyes on the prize.