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16 May 2016 Edition

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Heroism and vision of the 1916 honoured

Tens of thousands at citizens’ ceremonies for 1916 Rising

• Actor Ed Cosgrave playing Pádraig Pearse reads the Proclamation to the huge crowd in front of the GPO

‘A small group of men and women took on the military might of the British Empire’

TENS of thousands of people took part in two events in Dublin to mark the 1916 Easter Rising on the precise date that the uprising began 100 years ago.

Thousands took part in a Sinn Féin-organised Centenary Sunday event on O’Connell Street to commemorate the moment when Pádraig Pearse read the Proclamation on the steps of the GPO. 

Flanked by activists holding portraits of the 1916 leaders, and the Cabra Historical Society re-enactors in full Volunteer period uniform, Martin McGuinness spoke of how 100 years ago on this very spot “a small group of men and women took on the military might of the British Empire and struck a blow for freedom that would reverberate across the globe and down through the generations”.

Describing their courage as “awe-inspiring”, the Derry republican said the 1916 leaders saw all around them the horrific effects of British imperialism.

“They decided to act – not in their own self-interest but in the interests of the Irish people and of future generations,” he said.

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• Martin McGuinness on stage outside the GPO

McGuinness, who in the early 1970s was on the streets of the Bogside as a young IRA Volunteer defending his neighbourhood and its people from the British occupation forces and the unionist paramilitary police, hit out at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for standing idly by as the nationalist people of the North were beaten off the streets, murdered on their doorsteps and forced from their homes. 

“The Southern Establishment parties abandoned Northern nationalists to a sordid sectarian state,” he said.

“But the days of second-class citizenship are over and gone forever, not because of anything the political establishment in Dublin has done but because of the sacrifice, courage and determination of this generation of Irish republicans,” he said to huge applause.

Martin McGuinness said republicans today have a responsibility to complete the work set in motion by the heroic men and women of 1916.

“Today, in this place that still resonates with the bravery and vision of the rebels, we are sending a clear message that the spirit of freedom embodied in the 1916 Proclamation is alive and well in cities, towns and villages across this island. In 2016, let us all join the Rising – Up the Rebels!” he shouted to cheers and applause from the thousands of republicans who lined the streets.

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• The Reclaim the Vision of 1916 rally marches down Dublin's Pearse Street

Later in the day, tens of thousands of people gathered in Merrion Square to take part in the Reclaim the Vision of 1916 rally – the broad-based citizens’ initiative – and march to the GPO.

Dozens of flute and pipe bands accompanied marchers representing organisations from across the political spectrum. Members of Ireland’s Traveller, Flemish, Basque, Palestinian and Romanian communities took a central role in the commemorations, as did members of Ireland’s emigrant communities from around the globe. 

Outside the GPO, well-known musicians, actors and media personalities – including Panti Bliss, Stephen Rea, Fionnuala Flanagan, Adrian Dunbar, Donal Lunny, Damien Dempsey, Don Baker, Frances Black, Laoise Kelly and Sibéal Ní Chasaide – entertained the crowd. 

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• A colour party leads the Louis Leonard Sinn Féin cumann from Fermanagh

Highlights included a haunting performance of The Foggy Dew by singer Frances Black, who said it was a “privilege and and an honour” to be performing at the GPO 100 years on from the Easter Rising. 

Damien Dempsey delivered a rousing rendition of The Ballad of James Connolly. Speaking of his aunt, Jennie Shanahan, a member of the Irish Citizen Army who fought under the command of Seán Connolly and Dr Kathleen Lynn at Dublin City Hall, he said to acclamation that we need to “work towards James Connolly’s dream of a 32-county socialist republic”.

» See more pictures from Reclaim the Vision of 1916 rally

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An Phoblacht
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