Huge turnout for Rising events
The Dublin establishment has joined in the commemorations held across Ireland this Easter weekend to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
A military parade through Dublin attracted tens of thousands and was described as “a spectacular success” by the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell.
The march, the first major State commemoration for 40 years, marked an attempt by the Dublin government to affirm its nationalist identity in the wake of growing support for Sinn Féin.
Some 2,500 members of the Defence Forces, and veterans of peacekeeping missions, marched through Dublin. Gardai put the crowd that watched them at 100,000, while the Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea, said some 120,000 spectators lined the route.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the 90th anniversary commemorations were “about discharging one generation’s debt of honour to another”.
Opposition Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, said the parade was “a great showcase” for the 26-County Army, which was also described by Michael McDowell as “the real Oglaigh na hEireann [Irish Army]”.
Mr McDowell said while there would be discussions on when to hold the next commemoration, “today’s events will encourage the Irish State to be confident about celebrating 1916”, he said.
Observers agreed the parade was a morale booster for the 26-County Army after declassified state papers revealed the government of thirty years ago believed it was too ineffective to provide security for the entire island.
In west Belfast Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams led a parade to the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery.
Relatives of people killed during the conflict carried portraits of their loved ones along the route.
Among those marching were a group of former republican prisoners. Pipe and drum bands, including one from Glasgow, played.
Thousands of spectators lined the route from Beechmount Avenue to the graveyard.
Speaking at the republican plot, Mr Adams said it was decision time for the Irish and British governments.
“Are they going to stand by the Good Friday Agreement or are they going to continue to pander to rejectionist unionism?” he asked.
“The governments have said that they will lift the suspension of the assembly on May 15.
“Sinn Féin will be in Stormont that day. We will be there for one reason and one reason only - the election of a government in line with the Good Friday Agreement.”
Mr Adams also claimed DUP leader Ian Paisley had failed in his campaign to “smash Sinn Féin”.
“The only way Ian Paisley will exercise political power is in an executive with Sinn Féin,” he said.
There were speeches and wreath-laying ceremonies in counties Ty-rone, Derry, Donegal and Armagh.
In Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, Kerry county council chair Toireasa Ferris was the speaker.
In Coalisland, County Tyrone, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun described 1916 as “a watershed in Irish history”.
In Carrickmore Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly said he hoped that just like the 1916 rising the IRA statement of last July announcing an end to its armed campaign would be another significant event in Ireland’s history.
At a ceremony in Cork Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness paid tribute to Thomas Kent, one of the 16 executed after the rising.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Workers Party held separate parades in west Belfast on Sunday.
Republican Sinn Féin president Ruairi O Bradaigh speak at an unveiling ceremony in Bundoran, Co Donegal on Sunday, where four plaques were unveiled in a republican garden.
Meanwhile, in an Easter statement the breakway ‘Real IRA’ said it would continue to defend Irish sovereignty and the Irish nation.
“The Republican position is again under threat by revisionists within the Free State establishment,” the statement read. “Their attempts to misrepresent the Republican position will be exposed by those who still hold true to Republican ideals.
“This Easter those who have usurped Irish sovereignty will parade past the GPO and attempt to reclaim the legacy of 1916. Republicans will again resist the attempts of constitutional nationalists to portray themselves as the legitimate successors of Pearse and Connolly.
“We remember with pride the ten Oglaigh na hEireann and INLA volunteers who died 25 years ago in the pursuit of political status and we reaffirm, in their memory, our commitment to the ending of British rule in Ireland and the restoration of national democracy and national sovereignty.
“Former comrades have usurped the constitution of Oglaigh na hEireann and have accepted Britain’s right to interfere in our affairs. This is an intolerable situation and the leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann pledge to remain true to our constitution and its aims and objectives.
“Irish sovereignty is being undermined on a daily basis, not only by the British Army in the north, but also by the American warplanes which land illegally in Shannon. Our national resources are being stolen by multinational capitalists and their Free State allies. Republicans stand for the complete ownership of Irish national territory and its resources for the benefit of the Irish people in accordance with the proclamation of the Republic.
“The causes of the conflict in Ireland remain unchanged. Britain refuses to declare its intent to withdraw and the so called government of the Irish people refuses to demand their withdrawal. While this remains the case Oglaigh na hEireann will continue to exist to defend Irish sovereignty and the Irish nation.”