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3 April 2017 Edition

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Aberri Eguna – The Day of the Basque Homeland and the 1916 Easter Rising

‘Gernika 80’ weekend of events in Dublin (21-23 April) to mark 80th anniversary of fascist bombing of Basque town

ABERRI EGUNA – The Day of the Basque Homeland – has been marked annually in the Basque Country at Easter time since 1932.

The idea to celebrate a Basque national day was proposed by Elias Gallastegi, a leading Basque nationalist with strong ties to Ireland. Elias had been exiled to Mexico in 1926 during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, returning home to Bilbao in 1931 following the fall of Rivera and the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic.

Greatly inspired by the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, Elias had penned numerous articles in Basque nationalist publications celebrating the heroism of the Irish rebels. As a mark of respect he proposed the celebration of a Basque National Day to coincide with the anniversary of the Rising.

The first Aberri Eguna demonstration was held in Bilbao in 1932. It was attended by over 60,000 people and led by members of Emakume Abertzale Batza (Basque Women’s Patriotic Front), which was inspired by Cumann na mBan.

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The organisation was founded in Bilbao in 1922 following a meeting, organised by Elias Gallastegi, which was addressed by an Irish republican and Sinn Féin member, Ambrose Victor Martin, on the subject of Cumann na mBan. The British Government had expelled the Argentinian-born Martin from Ireland in 1919 for republican activities.

In subsequent years, both men established the Irish Iberian Trading Company with assistance from the Irish Ambassador to the Spanish Republic, Leopold Kerney. The purpose of which was to open up alternative trading routes for the Irish Free State during its Economic War with Britain in the early 1930s.

When the Gallastegi family fled the Basque Country to Ireland in 1937 following the bombing of Gernika, they settled in the Meath Gaeltacht in a house owned by Ambrose Martin.

This year’s Aberri Eguna will be held in Gernika to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the town.

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