Hundreds of events, large and small, were held across Ireland to mark the 93rd anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising by a variety of republican groups, large and small.
An estimated 2,000 people gathered on Sunday outside Dublin’s GPO, the headquarters of the Rising, for the Dublin government’s “official” commemoration.
Two large video screens, on either side of the GPO, relayed the ceremony, which included an Army pipers’ lament and Air Corps fly past.
President Mary McAleese, 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea and Mayor of Dublin Eibhlin Byrne were among the participants in the event.
The only political figure to receive a round of applause on arrival was Mrs McAleese.
As the ceremony got under way at noon, the national flag was lowered and Army chaplain Msgr Eoin Thynne read a prayer of remembrance.
“We recall with affection all who gave their lives for the cause of peace during the struggle for independence,” he said.
“Guide our nation in the way of justice and truth, and establish among us that peace which is the fruit of righteousness.”
Msgr Thynne said that as people came to pray for those who had suffered and died for freedom, they knew that one day they would join them among the dead generations.
“May the hope and vision that were the inspiration of those we remember today, encourage us to look forward with optimism to the future and build a nation without violence, a nation that loves life and grows in justice and solidarity.”
President McAleese laid a wreath to commemorate the dead of 1916. A minute’s silence was observed.
The Last Post was sounded, and the national flag was restored to full mast before the playing of the National Anthem.
Among the relatives of the 1916 participants present was American-born Denisa Casement who now works in Dublin as head of fundraising with Merchants Quay Ireland. Her grandfather, Robert Casement, was Roger Casement’s second cousin.
“My reaction to the ceremony was one of pride,” she said.
“It was a solemn but joyful experience. What it took to attain Ireland’s sovereignty means a lot to me.”
As the State commemoration of the Rising got under way at the GPO, members of the National Graves Association staged a protest on the nearby O’Connell Bridge against a development that is set to damage a national monument associated with the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
A 1.25 billion Euro retail and residential scheme will involve major alterations to the No. 14 to 17 site Moore St which was designated as a national monument.
The leaders of the Rising retreated from the GPO to No. 16 Moore Street, a few hundred yards away, before surrendering.
When former taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that No. 16 was to be made a national monument in 2006, he said that it was of significant national importance from “an historical, social and political standpoint”.
James Connolly Heron, great grandson of James Connolly, said yesterday that under the plan, major alterations would be carried out to No 16.
“There would be demolition of the structures at the rear, and the area built on,” he said. “The proposal is a violation of the boundary of a national monument.”
Over a thousand Sinn Féin supporters turned out on Easter Sunday to mark the anniversary with a parade which wended its way from Beechmount Avenue to the Republican Plot in Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast.
For the first time, the Provisional IRA did not issue its traditional Easter message in a move widely interpreted as significant.
Instead, an Easter statement was read out in the name of the Sinn Féin leadership, recommitting members to republican objectives.
At Milltown Cemetery, veteran republican Eibhlin Glenholmes read the Sinn Féin statement.
“Irish unity remains Sinn Féin’s primary objective,” Glenholmes said.
“We have a strategy to achieve that objective. Others disagree, but they offer no alternative.
“We are right to resist those who have attacked the peace process. This includes those in the British Establishment who would seek to use recent events as an excuse to rush back to the days of militarisation and the abuses that flow from that,” she continued.
“In Ireland today there is an alternative to armed struggle. A small number of militarist factions oppose Sinn Féin’s policies and strategy. Let us be clear many of those are involved in criminal actions and, moreover, they have no political programmes or strategies.
“There is no feasible alternative to Sinn Féin’s strategy for a united Ireland. Our objective now must be to consolidate the peace process,” she said.
Gerry Adams was the main speaker at the annual commemoration. The full text of his address is carried elsewhere.
Speaking in Ardagh, County Longford on Easter Sunday, the Vice President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton said the 1916 rising was the “practical working out of centuries of endeavour” all directed at securing the freedom of Ireland from “the yoke of English rule”.
“In each successive generation Irish men and women have been willing to sacrifice everything in defence of Ireland’s right to nationhood.
“The historian Peter Berresford Ellis writes in the collection of essays ‘The impact of the 1916 Rising’ that ‘at no time, in any generation, did the Irish people accept the ‘legitimacy’ of the conquerors.’
“The 1916 Proclamation documents six occasions in three hundred years prior to 1916 when risings had taken place against English rule in Ireland. The authors of the proclamation of course were also placing the 1916 rising in line with each previous effort to free Ireland.
“The high ideals and the vision of the All-Ireland Republic set out in the 1916 Proclamation nerved a new generation to take on the might of the British empire. In seven glorious years -- to paraphrase Frank Gallagher’s memoir of those revolutionary years -- they made that Republic a reality...
“Compromise and betrayal and British duplicity undid all that was achieved. Each succeeding generation has had to grapple with the “carnival of reaction” which James Connolly predicted would follow on from the partition of Ireland. The partitioned Ireland we live in today is the legacy of the British government’s denial of the Irish people’s right -- acting as a unit -- to self-determination and All-Ireland democracy.
“Today the same ingredients for conflict and resistance remain in place as they did in 1916. The lesson of Irish history is that as long as there is English occupation in Ireland it will be resisted.
“The recent attacks on British Crown forces in the Six Counties bears out this analysis. This is the hard reality that must be faced - as Ruairi O Bradaigh pointed out - if we are to realise a just and lasting settlement in Ireland.
“By failing to face up to the ‘hard realities of the situation in Ireland’ the British government supported by the 26-County administration are condemning this and future generations to repeat the cycle of Irish history.”
Those attending an Easter Commemoration in County Fermanagh were assaulted by the PSNI whilst leaving the event, RSF claimed. The commemoration was held on Easter Monday in Roslea, an area known for heavy republican militant activity.
A spokesman for Republican Sinn Féin said that whilst those in attendance were leaving, many were threatened and some physically assaulted.
“This followed a massive operation by British Crown Forces both before and during the commemoration,” he said.
“Martin McGuinness, who spoke in Roslea on Easter Sunday, and [Sinn Féin representative]Sean Lynch from Fermanagh claimed that they would go into the RUC to ‘put manners’ on these people. Clearly they have failed.”
The ‘Real IRA’-linked 32 County Sovereignty Committee used its Easter message to hit out at Mr McGuinness’s branding of dissidents as “traitors”.
“Armed struggle is a reality in our midst,” the organisation said in a statement.
“We must address it for what it is, a symptom of the unwillingness of the British government to engage on the core cause of conflict, namely, its illegal claim to sovereignty over part of our country.
“For those who want armed struggle to cease they must come forward with proposals to address its cause.
“The politics of condemnation is a failed irrelevancy just as British micro-ministers are sitting in Stormont.”
Meanwhile, a smaller breakaway faction, which has no known political representation, has said it is willing to enter into dialogue.
The group which broke away from the ‘Real IRA’ and also uses the name Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), made the claim in an Easter statement.
The statement said: “The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann take this opportunity on the 93rd anniversary of the Easter rising to reaffirm our commitment to securing a 32-county socialist republic.
“We wish to extend greetings to our supporters and to our volunteers. Also to praise the discipline of our volunteers as they face the uphill task of republicans of 1916 but like them they know it is a task needed to ensure that Britain finally allows the Irish people to control their own affairs.
“Recent events in the north of Ireland show that peace has not been made in Ireland.
“Oglaigh na hEireann truly wished to see the gun taken out of Irish politics and will listen to anyone seriously interested in dealing with the core issue of British rule in Ireland.”