A row has broken out over rival commemorations to mark the hundredth anniversary of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, one of the most significant events in the lead up to the 1916 Easter Rising.
Sinn Fein has been accused of attempting to run a “parallel programme” to the official commemorations of the Easter Rising as two re-enactments of the famous graveside oration by Padraig Pearse are due to take place.
And Pearse’s closing lines in the oration remain controversial as they describe the recurring cycle of pacification and conflict in Ireland:
“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
The meaning and ‘ownership’ of such legacy events has long been argued over by Irish nationalists and republicans.
Sinn Fein originally drew up its calendar of events, including today’s re-enactment of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral, after the Dublin government appeared determined to erase any public recognition of the political significance of the Rising.
Fine Gael was particularly accused of attempting to whitewash events after former party leader John Bruton described the Rising as “a mistake”. The coalition government commissioned a commemorative 1916 video which infamously managed to avoid mention of the Rising.
Once the butt of international jokes, however, the government’s programme of pedantic, apolitical events has seen significant revisions and additions. The recently launched Ireland 2016 programme was a “dramatic improvement”, insisted Fianna Fail’s Eamon O Cuiv.
Mr O Cuiv, who is Eamon De Valera’s grandson, said his Fianna Fail party was organising commemoration events but they were not running parallel or as alternatives to the State programme. He suggested the Sinn Fein commemorations were ‘out of sync’ with the spirit of the original funeral, which involved all strands of nationalist Ireland.
He said his party would play a full part in the 40 State events scheduled over the next year. Today’s state commemoration was a government one, he said, and he argued that the President would represent the people of Ireland.
“We are giving our support and we are encouraging our members to attend the services at Glasnevin. It would have been inappropriate for Fianna Fail to have organised something that would diminish what is happening in Glasnevin.”
The state commemoration features a military display by the 26 County Army followed by a re-enactment of the famous graveside oration by Padraig Pearse.
“If one looks at his funeral, all seven signatories of the Proclamation, and at least two more executed in the Rising, were involved, and that was just the organising committee,” said organiser Gabriel Doherty. “This was the time when the leadership cadre of 1916 cut their teeth.”
Ironically, the freedom fighter would today likely be imprisoned by the state as a dangerous extremist. Once known as ‘O’Dynamite Rossa’, the IRB man started a school for bombers and, impatient with Fenian inaction, orchestrated bombing campaigns of Britain.
Sinn Fein has organised its own commemoration, with a re-enactment of the funeral cortege from City Hall to Glasnevin Cemetery. It will include an oration by Gerry Adams and a second re-enactment of Pearse’s speech.
The party has denied accusations its theatrics would fail to reflect the gravitas of historical events. Bartle D’Arcy, Sinn Fein 1916 Co-ordinator, said there was huge interest in Sinn Fein’s commemoration, with BBC covering the event.
“The Historical cortege led by the O’Neil/Allsop marching band will depart from City Hall at 2pm and proceed along the original route through Westmoreland St, up O’Connell St Parnell Sq. West, onto Berkley Road, Cabra Road and finally Finglas Rd to Glasnevin arriving at 3pm. The public are encouraged to come out to watch the parade pass on the streets as in 1915 and to wear period dress.”
Other events planned to mark the funeral centenary today include a series of events by the National Graves Association, with the unveiling of plaques, a wreath-laying ceremony and an incredible third re-enactment of Padraig Pearse’s iconic oration.
On Sunday, eirigi said it will hold a “people’s celebration” of O’Donovan Rossa at Dublin City Hall. Republican Sinn Fein has also organised a wreath-laying ceremony for the Fenian in Glasnevin Cemetery on August 15, followed by a seminar with speakers, readings and music.