Tag Archives: Republic Day

Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration united all at the GPO

We measure ourselves by special birthdays, 13, 18, 21, 30 and so on. We attend annual commemorations and they blend into one another, that is until the special ones – the magic numbers – come around.

When I was seventeen I stood at the corner of the GPO and Henry Street. It was the day of the 50th anniversary of the 1916 revolution. Two stands flanked the portico of the GPO, each full of the surviving 1916 revolutionaries, by now old men and old women.

1966 GPO commemoration

Just up above me I could see Ernie Nunan who had been a 17 year-old London Volunteer, and a member of the GPO Garrison. I was with his son Jim, my best mate at school. My Volunteer grandfather wasn’t in the stand. He had died in 1940 rescuing a young woman from the sea at the Shelly Banks, and I felt I was representing him.

1966 commemoration Henry St corner

1966 commemoration Henry St corner

I remember thinking of the significance of the 50th anniversary, and wondering if I would make it to the centenary, and wanting to. 100 is one of those magic numbers.

I made it. On April 24th 2016, Republic Day, the magic number rolled around.

If the actual anniversary of the revolution in 2010 had been marked by a proper commemoration organised by someone else I would have happily stood at the corner of the GPO and Henry Street again in 2016. But nothing was organised and that is how the Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day was started – to cover that outrageous omission. Each year since, a group of citizens has marked that date with a proper commemoration under the Republic Day banner.

But the centenary commemoration had to be different, in scale and content. In spite of impediments thrown up by others we held firm, refusing to be squeezed out, not because of hubris or ego, but because we offered what others didn’t, a neutral space capable of being occupied by all as equal citizens, provided they were prepared to set their politics or differences aside for a short time so as to concentrate on the real purpose of a commemoration, that is to remember and honour those from another time who are worthy of being commemorated.

Nobody should feel inhibited about attending a 1916 commemoration because of their politics or religion or skin-colour, or because of factional differences with others. That would fly in the face of the principles on which a republic is founded – Liberty, Equality and Solidarity – and because the republic is the property of the people – all of the people. And so neutral space is necessary, particularly if we are also commemorating the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, given political and/or factional differences that exist.

I know that that worked. Looking out at the assembly I could see citizens I know of different political persuasions or belonging to different factions. All were entitled to be there, to play their part in the commemoration and to be at peace with the moment and the collective of which they were part. The extensive feedback on the day and especially since the commemoration have unanimously endorsed the sense that something special was experienced by all, that any differences had been put to one side, and that all present were unified, standing shoulder to shoulder as equals, paying tribute to the men and women of 1916.

In 50 years time, some of the children and teenagers who were present on Republic Day 2016 will again assemble at the GPO for the 150th anniversary of the 1916 revolution. The torch has been passed to them.

 

Our street

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who contributed on stage; Adrian Dunbar, Ruan O’Donnell, Marie Mulholland, Lorcán O’Coileáin, Rita Fagan, Fergus Russell, Proinsias O Rathaille, Danny Healy and Mary Stokes – and to the Colour Party of Paul Callery, James Langton, Pól De Pléimeann, Dáithí O’Cuinn, Brendan Hickey and Pauline Mc Caul. Shane Stokes provided a lot of support, including the live-streaming of the commemoration for the benefit of those who could not be with us, and photographing it on my behalf. Thank you to all. Comrades!

But it is the citizens who participate who really make a commemoration valid and true, and so thank you to all who attended. As I said in my closing remarks, I think we managed to create a mini Irish Republic at the GPO for at least 45 minutes on Republic Day, although I think that mood continued for the rest of the day. As Adrian Dunbar said later, perhaps we opened a gap into a space that people can occupy where differences aren’t a roadblock to progress. That is what being a citizen of a true republic should be like.

Let’s now work to create the full-scale Irish Republic without delay, for the benefit of all.

We can do that. First imagine, then believe, then act. We’ll use ideas and words and listening and persuasion instead of bullets.

That way we can arrive at the Irish Republic. What a beautiful destination that will be.

Video of live-stream of the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration

Adrian Dunbar - Compere

Adrian Dunbar – Compere

Ruan O'Donnell

Ruan O’Donnell

Marie Mulholland

Marie Mulholland

Lorcan Collins

Lorcan Collins

Fergus Russell 'The Foggy Dew'

Fergus Russell ‘The Foggy Dew’

Rita Fagan reads the Proclamation

Rita Fagan reads the Proclamation

Proinsias O Rathaille

Proinsias O Rathaille

Colour Party Paul Callery

Colour Party Paul Callery

Colour Party 2

Colour Party 2

Colour Party 1

Colour Party 1

Danny Healy The Last Post & Reveille

Danny Healy The Last Post & Reveille

Mary Stokes, singer Amhrán na bhFiann

Mary Stokes, singer Amhrán na bhFiann

Tom Stokes

Tom Stokes

Tom Stokes closing words

Tom Stokes closing words

It's A Wrap

It’s A Wrap

 

 

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Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration on Republic Day 2016

On the 100th anniversary of the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the commencement of the 1916 Revolution on April 24th 1916, there will be a Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration at the GPO in Dublin from 11.15 to 12 Noon – to the day and the hour of that seminal moment in modern Irish history.

Organised by the Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day, and free of political party or political group influence, the commemoration is designed to facilitate citizens and those who have chosen to be among us to unite for the purpose of paying tribute to the men and women of 1916 who imagined a far better future for us in a true republic of equals, and who were prepared to offer their lives to achieve that.

A commemoration is about remembering people and/or events from another time. In this case it is about looking back to 1916 and to the revolutionary act that began the road to independence, and to those who had the courage and generosity to take a stand in support of the Irish Republic even though that meant confronting the most powerful empire in the world at that time.

A commemoration of 1916, such as this, cannot be about us, or the time we live in, or failures to live up to the vision contained in the Proclamation by any and all governments since 1922. Its focus, for the 45 minute duration of the commemoration, must be solely on 1916.

Given that a proper commemoration must have a period of reflection, a short programme hosted by Adrian Dunbar will include three speakers: historian and biographer of Patrick Pearse, Ruan O’Donnell, will speak on the origins of Irish republicanism among Belfast Protestants in the 1790s and the republican continuum up to 1916; women’s rights activist and biographer of Dr Kathleen Lynn, Marie Mulholland, will speak on the women of 1916; 1916 historian and biographer of James Connolly, Lorcan Collins, will speak on the revolutionaries of 1916, particularly the rank-and-file, and on the contribution of the people of the inner-city tenements to the revolution.

Singer Fergus Russell will provide a bridge between the reflective part of the commemoration and the formal part with his rendition of an iconic song about the revolution.

The formal elements necessary to a proper commemoration of 1916 include: the reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic by political, community and women’s rights activist Rita Fagan; the laying of a wreath on behalf of the people by Proinsias O Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly; the raising of the flags of the Irish Republic, the Starry Plough, Cumann na mBan, na Fianna, and the Tricolour by Volunteer and Citizen Army reenactors led by Paul Callery; The Last Post and Reveille played by trumpeter Danny Healy; and the singing of the National Anthem, led by singer Mary Stokes, which will bring the commemoration to a close.

A great deal of care has been taken to ensure that the centenary commemoration will adhere to the three principles of commemoration – recognition, reflection and respect. It is expected that all present will want to  honour the men and women of 1916, putting all present day differences to one side for the short duration of the Citizens’ Centenary Commemoration at the GPO which should act as common ground as we pay tribute to, and focus on, that golden generation who gave so much for us at great cost to them.

The organisers of the commemoration are just facilitators. The act of commemorating is performed by all who are in attendance. It is they who, after this once-ever experience since there is only one centenary of 1916 on the day and to the hour, should be able to disperse knowing that they have been part of a memorable experience and that they have played their full part in collectively paying proper tribute to the men and women of 1916.

Then, let us be inspired to put that beautiful model of the true republic contained in the Proclamation back in place.

That would be the enduring tribute to the men and women of 1916.

 

 


April 24th is Republic Day

Charles Gavan Duffy, editor of The Nation newspaper which he established in 1840 with Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon, explained why they chose that particular name for the paper, saying “We desired to make Ireland a nation and the name would be a fitting prelude to the attempt.”.

The same thinking guides the campaign to establish April 24th as the new national day in Ireland, and naming it Republic Day is because we desire to remake Ireland as the true republic of the Proclamation, and applying that name to the national day will be an important aid in achieving that bigger objective.

While we may claim to be free citizens of an independent state, it is not the one conceived by both the Revolution of 1916 and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The anniversary of these events on April 24th has always been ignored by the Irish State which has abjectly failed to complete the task of building the progressive, modern republic that was promised in the Proclamation.

The evidence of this failure lies all around us – one of the most unequal societies in Europe, a shambles of a health system, a social-class based three-tier education system largely handed over to the control of religious organisations, State oppression of women over many decades, the systematic cover up by Church and State of rampant abuse of children, business and political corruption and collusion resulting in massive costs to ordinary citizens, the handing over of national assets to private multi-national corporations, divisions deliberately fostered between public and private workers, urban and rural people and between social classes. More troubling is the recent abject surrender of Ireland’s sovereignty to the European Union/European Central Bank/International Monetary Fund Troika. Even worse is the attempt by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil to dragoon Irish citizens into acquiescing in another disastrous Act of Union to replace the one substantially dismantled by patriotic Irish men and women between 1916 and 1921, this time with an Act of Union with a European Union that has  recently taken on the appearance of being the Fourth Reich.

The newly elected President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has placed creating a ‘real’ republic at the top of his agenda, while acknowledging that what we have now is not a proper republic. There was never any impediment from the beginning to the creation of that ‘real’ republic, other than the selfish interests of those who never believed in it anyway, were determined that their political class would govern even at the point of a British gun, and who created a counter-revolution in 1922 to crush the ideals contained in the Proclamation. Their political descendants have been, and are, every bit as self-serving, and have never shown the slightest interest in creating a progressive, enlightened republic.

While the Irish State studiously ignored the anniversary of the 1916 Revolution it promoted as our national day what was once St Patrick’s Day, a Christian religious feast-day, but has by now evolved into ‘Paddy’s Day’, a ‘fun’ day which is also a binge-drinking day. The image we send into the world, and to ourselves, fits with the negative stereotyping of the Irish as feckless drinkers who just like to party, hardly an image to sustain a proper national day, or a healthy nation for that matter.

The reasoning behind designating the anniversary of the 1916 Revolution and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic as Republic Day is that it would serve as a day of remembrance, understanding and celebration of that momentous event, and of the selfless heroism and integrity of the women and men involved in that strike for freedom. It is also so as to have at least one day in the year when the citizens might reflect on the sort of republic they live in, and how it might be improved, and on their role as autonomous citizens in shaping that republic. It is strange how, in a country with our particular history, these topics are rarely discussed by citizens in the way that they are in other countries with advanced democracies. While we have ‘Paddy’s Day’, the French have Bastille Day, the British have Armistice Day, the US has Independence Day, and India, inspired in its quest for independence by our 1916 Revolution and War of Independence, celebrates its Republic Day as the most important date in its calendar.

We cannot rely on the State to acknowledge the significance of that date, April 24th, and to make it our national day. On the contrary, the evidence is that the State, and the parties of permanent power, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, will resist any calls to support this proposal. Therefore it must fall to the citizens, acting outside the institutional framework of the State, to apply pressure by acting in common cause and by pressing home the legitimate arguments in favour of establishing Republic Day as Ireland’s national day. In the meantime, acting in the spirit of the founders of The Nation we can make Republic Day a reality by making it our reality. If we say it is, then it is. We just need to spread that belief to the citizens in general.

This campaign, organised as a Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day, is independent of all political parties, whose members are welcome to take part in or lend their support to the campaign as citizens. It is an inclusive campaign, and its banners will be the the Tricolour, the flag of the Irish Republic, and the Starry Plough – the three flags flown during the Revolution.

To mark this year’s Republic Day in Dublin, citizens are invited to join in the campaign by attending a ceremony at the graves of the executed 1916 leaders at Arbour Hill Cemetery (at the rear of Collin’s Barracks Museum) at 10.30am, from where participants will proceed to the GPO for 12 Noon where a commemorative ceremony will be held. Please attend if possible, and please spread the word on behalf of the campaign.

Interested citizens in other parts of the country are invited to create their own commemorations locally using monuments or other sites associated with the Revolution.

By working together to establish Republic Day as our national day we will help to bring the progressive, enlightened Irish Republic to life again.

See also – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Republic-Day-Ireland/117038468321983

“The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

(Paragraph four of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, April 24th 1916)

April 24th is Republic Day


No Privatising of the Rising

The plans were made behind closed doors, the preparations pursued in secret and the mobilisation orders delivered in sealed envelopes. So tightly controlled was the event that on the day just 3,000 people mobilised on the streets outside the GPO – and many of them were accidental observers, with tourists and foreign nationals making up perhaps half of the assembly.

If those people thought that they might play a meaningful part in commemorating the 1916 revolution on its anniversary at the epicentre of the revolution they were wrong. The State had its plan, and ordinary people would play no part in it other than as curious and distant observers. Far better had a countermanding order been issued so that citizens would not be present as insult after insult was heaped on them and on their dreams.

Barriers, barriers everywhere. Private security men patrolled the streets of what passes for a ‘republic’, vying with the State’s own police to hold back sparse numbers of citizens and tourists. It was, of course, necessary to preserve a 100 metre buffer zone between them and that other class of citizen, the political class, so that their private entertainment at the GPO, paid for by the excluded, should not be disturbed in any way.

A large prime viewing area between Abbey Street and the GPO was corralled off, bearing the sign ‘Defence Forces Guests’. It remained empty for the entire proceedings. The only area to which citizens could gain access required being subjected to body-frisking and bag searches. None of that for the ‘dignitaries’ of course, although many of those present had done grievous damage to the State and to the Nation. Not content with that, now they would do grievous damage to the dignity of the occasion.

A contingent from the combined Defence Forces, pathetically small in numbers, marched to the GPO, some unable to keep in step to the drumbeat. Their counterparts of 95 years ago would not have been impressed. Another insult to the occasion.

The Military Band ditched well established Irish marching airs in favour of twee music hall ditties such as ‘Step it out Mary’. The musical director evidently doesn’t know the difference between commemorating the revolution, its participants, and the Irish Republic of the Proclamation, and entertaining the fans in the Aviva Stadium before a football match. Yet another insult to the occasion.

Not content with restricting a view of the proceedings to a couple of medium sized screens so far away from the citizens as to be almost useless, the organisers provided a sound system that was inaudible to all but the chosen few, the ‘dignitaries’. But, perhaps to occupy their minds in case the ‘natives’ became restless, an expensive glossy folded programme informed them about what they were missing, in Irish and English – at the citizens’ expence, of course.

Proceedings over, the man responsible for this debacle, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, thought it appropriate to engage with reporters on the subject of the Queen of England’s visit at the point outside the GPO where Patrick Pearse, accompanied by James Connolly, had read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic 95 years ago to almost the precise minute. Enda Kenny obviously has no sense of propriety. He might have waited five minutes and delivered his thoughts on that subject on the way into the private reception for the ‘dignitaries’ in a nearby hotel (again paid for by the excluded citizens). Another insult to the occasion.

A small group of citizens made their way past the GPO, pausing with their banner at the Portico. Its legend stated that “April 24th is Republic Day”.  Some remaining ‘dignitaries’ and State apparatchiks looked on as  if unable to understand what these gatecrashers were about, while some citizens, now free to approach their GPO, took photos of this phenomenon and expressed interest in the banner’s statement.

The Republic Day citizens made their way from the GPO to the almost derelict National Monument at 16 Moore Street, the last outpost of the 1916 GPO Garrison and leaders prior to the surrender. The State has, of course, failed to secure the integrity of this battlefield site and to give it its dignity as a place of immense historical significance. Another studied insult to the revolutionaries of 1916 and the Republic that they created but which still has to be put in place.

At 16 Moore Street this small band of citizens held a meaningful, dignified and proper commemoration of the revolution, its participants and of the establishing of the Irish Republic. In attendance to support the Republic Day campaign were relatives of executed leaders of the revolution – James Connolly’s grandson Roddy Wilson, and Connolly’s great-grandson James Connolly-Heron, Joesph Plunkett’s grand-niece Honor O’Brolacháin, and Thomas McDonagh’s grand-daughter Lucille Redmond.

An address on the relevance of the revolution and the Irish Republic to today’s Ireland and its citizens was followed by the trooping of the flags – the Tricolour, the Starry Plough and Connolly’s Irish Republic flag – as the Last Post and Reveille were played by trumpeter Danny Healy. A wreath with seven Easter Lilies to signify the signatories of the Proclamation was laid at the building by Roddy Wilson. A short explanation that the origins of the Irish National Anthem were in the GPO as the building burned around the revolutionaries was followed by Frank Allen leading the citizens in singing the anthem outside the building in which those revolutionaries spent their last hours together as an army.

The contrast between the official State ceremony, held for the private gratification of a self-styled ‘elite’, with the few citizens present on the perimeter to be satisfied with crumbs from the table as insult after insult was heaped on them and on the participants of the actual revolution, and the unofficial citizens’ ceremony at Moore Street, could not have been more marked. On the one hand a dishonour was done, on the other honour was restored to the occasion.

The State owes its citizens an abject apology for the cack-handed, segregationist affair on O’Connell Street on the 24th April 2011 – Republic Day. It should also withdraw from any future commemoration of the 1916 revolution, its participants and of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It is not up to the job. Those future commemorations will be in safe hands, the citizens’ hands. The citizens understand respect, dignity and honour, the so-called ‘elite’ – the political class – regard these concepts as obstructions on the way to the Banana Republic.

On Republic Day 2012 there will be no sign of the political class at the GPO. They only do Easter Sunday, if they must. On Tuesday 24th April 2012 the Republic Day campaign will hold a dignified ceremony at the GPO. Citizens who care about the establishment of a proper republic – the Irish Republic – should mark their calendars and get ready for the day.


April 24th – Reclaim the Spirit of 1916

Do you want to know a secret? But you have to promise not to tell! There will be a military parade in Dublin on Easter Sunday to commemorate the 1916 revolution, organised by the State. For God’s sake, keep it to yourself, no-one must know about it. If word leaked out there might be repercussions, chaos in the streets. Even the military must be kept in the dark.

April 24th 2011 will mark the 95th anniversary of the revolution of Easter 1916, but even a focused search of the internet reveals no detail of the State’s plans to commemorate that seminal moment in Irish history that led to independence from the British Empire. Enquiries to relevant departments of the Irish military reveal that there is to be a parade in O’Connell Street at the GPO, but no details as to time or form of commemoration.

This has a resonance back to 1991, the 75th anniversary of the revolution, when the State disowned the event and it was left to individuals and small groups to organise events and ceremonies to commemorate and celebrate the revolution and the revolutionaries.

Robert Ballagh, prominent artist and activist, was the driving force behind maintaining the commemoration by organising a series of events featuring artists, writers, actors, musicians and political activists. For his efforts he was rewarded with State harassment, with the Special Branch paying very close attention to his movements, stopping him on the streets to demand his ID and so on. A young man – a Leaving Certificate student – who was assisting in the organising of events had his school visited by Special Branch detectives and his parents warned of his ‘subversive’ activities to the extent that he had to withdraw from participation in honouring the revolution and its heroes!

With the coming of the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement, the State seemed by 2006 to have put this nonsensical attitude behind in organising a significant military parade on Easter Sunday through O’Connell Street in the 90th anniversary year of the revolution. Fine words were written and spoken, newspapers published colourful supplements marking the occasion, massive crowds turned out and the military created a fine and dignified spectacle.

It seemed as if a corner had been turned and that in the approach to the centenary in 2016 official attitudes would change and the value of commemorating and celebrating the revolution would be recognised. Far from it! Subsequent military parades were reduced in size and the commemorations downplayed. Even viewed from a crassly commercial perspective this makes no sense, given the extensive interest in the 1916 revolution, internationally. But, more seriously, the benefits of using the anniversary as a means of re-engaging the citizenry, particularly the young, with notions of citizenship and community, and with the meaning of the word ‘republic’ and all that that carries in terms of values, seem to have been discarded.

In five years time the centenary of the 1916 revolution will presumably be marked by the State. In the meantime, the State, by now no longer sovereign and certainly not independent of the EU and the IMF, seems to wish to go through the motions in as low-key a manner as possible. That is hardly surprising, given that Fine Gael, the lead party in government, grew out of the counter-revolution of the 1920s including the murder of heroes of 1916, while the junior partner in government, the Labour Party, has long since distanced itself from the revolution led by the party’s founder James Connolly, while in a lily-livered fashion paying lip service to his social ideas.

This year, by pure coincidence, Easter Sunday falls on the actual anniversary, otherwise it would be left to citizens alone to mark the anniversary. But the Citizens Initiative for Republic Day will be present with their banner stating that ‘April 24th is Republic Day’ from 10.30am outside Eason’s Bookshop on O’Connell Street. Following the military parade the Republic Day campaign will move to 16 Moore Street, the final battlefield location of the 1916 GPO Garrison prior to surrender, for a brief commemoration ceremony. Please come along and join us at both locations. And spread the word – don’t keep it a secret.


Republic Day

Re-proclaiming our Republic on April 24th

We are free citizens of an independent state conceived by both the Revolution of 1916 and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The anniversary of these events, April 24th, has always been ignored by the Irish State which has abjectly failed to complete the task of building the progressive, modern republic that was promised in the Proclamation.

The evidence of this failure lies all around us – one of the most unequal societies in Europe, a shambles of a health system, an education system handed over to the control of religious organisations, the systematic cover up by church and state of rampant child abuse, business and political corruption and collusion resulting in massive costs to ordinary citizens, the handing over of national assets to private multi-national corporations, divisions deliberately fostered between public and private workers, urban and rural people, between social classes – and the list goes on, and on.

The French have Bastille Day, the British have Armistice Day, the US has Independence Day. India, inspired in its quest for independence by our 1916 revolution and War of Independence, celebrates its Republic Day as the most important date in its calendar.  The Irish State has consistently avoided designating the anniversary of the 1916 Revolution and the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic as a day of remembrance, understanding and celebration of that momentous event, and of the selfless heroism and integrity of the women and men involved in that strike for freedom.

We cannot rely on the State. It is for citizens to reclaim the Republic and to reinvest it with the spirit of paragraph four of the Proclamation.

“The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”

(Proclamation of the Irish Republic, April 24th 1916)

By working to establish Republic Day as our National Day we will bring the progressive, enlightened Irish Republic to life again.

This project has been initiated by ordinary citizens acting in common and independent of any political party or organisation.


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