Category: Archive

Marking 93

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Though the precise calendar date of the first shots being fired in the rebellion is April 24, the historical observations traditionally fall at Easter, which of course is a variable holiday dependent on the lunar calendar.
Last Sunday, as has been the case in recent years, there was a significant official ceremony outside the General Post Office in Dublin, which was the epicenter of the effort to wrest Irish freedom from the hands of an unwilling British government.
The official ceremony has been revived considerably in recent years and many people now turn up to watch, appreciate and enjoy what is a fundamental recognition of what was required to secure a measure of freedom for the Irish nation.
Also in recent times there has been proper official recognition accorded the Irish dead of World War I.
Even as the men and women under Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and the other leaders of the Rising faced the forces of the British Empire on Dublin’s streets, many more of their fellow Irish were fighting on the side of that same empire in the fields of France and Belgium.
But though they fought on the British side, it was often the case that these Irish, who came from every county on the island and who fought not just in battalions and regiments, but in entire divisions, were in fact hoping that their service and sacrifice was in the cause of at least home rule for a 32-county united Ireland. Some hoped for even more than that.
For many years these men, those who died and those who survived, were consigned to the background as attention focused on the leaders and the men and women soldiers who fought in the GPO, Boland’s Mill, the College of Surgeons and elsewhere.
This emphasis was, not surprisingly, greatly enhanced as a result of the martyrdom of a number of leaders of the Rising.
In recent years, there has been at attempt to bring greater balance to the honoring of all those Irish men and women who kept the flame of freedom alive in their hearts, no matter where they bore arms in that terrible time.
Since the Good Friday agreement, it has been evident that people in the Republic in particular have undergone a revival in both their interest in, and observance of, the anniversary. And in conjunction with this welcome trend there has been a greater willingness to remember and salute those who died in the Dardanelles, in France and in Flanders.
And those dead were not just sons of Ulster. They were sons of Leinster, Connacht and Munster too. And there were thousands of them.
It was equally evident during the years of the Troubles that violence in Northern discouraged many from giving the annual Easter commemoration its proper respect and honored place in Irish life and society.
The North has been a far more peaceful place over the last decade, but, sadly, this year’s observance of Easter Week is against the backdrop of a return of the gunman’s shadow.
We have, however, advanced far enough in our appreciation of history and historical forces to be able to separate the recent killings of soldiers and a police officer in Northern Ireland, not just from what transpired in 1916 and the years that immediately followed, but even from the dark days of the modern Troubles which, we now know, carried a political underpinning that ultimately led to a political settlement.

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