Captain Peter Kelleher reading the 1916 Proclamation outside the General Post Office in Dublin. Photo by Maxwell’s Photography and courtesy of the Irish government.
By Peter McDermott
Dublin – “Well done,” said Cliff Carlson, publisher of the Irish American News in Chicago.
“The Irish can hold their head high.”
He was his reacting to the 1916 Commemoration and the military parade past the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Sunday.
Overall, in his few days in Dublin to that point, he saw a centenary that was “very respectful and not beholden to anyone.
“It’s massive, too,” added Carlson, about the parade, which also involved the Garda Síochána, fire, ambulance, coast guard and other services.
“This is amazing,” said the Irish American News publisher, pointing to the system of big screens that provided views of what was happening at the GPO and who was coming over the bridge from the south, as well as fine aerial shots of the city center.
Carlson was impressed, too, with the size of the crowds gathering along the parade route as he walked in from his hotel a couple of miles south of the GPO.
The ceremony began shortly after Minister for Defense Simon Coveney rolled up in his car. He was accorded military honors and so was Dublin Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh after she’d made a similar entrance.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was next over O’Connell Bridge and he received the Taoiseach’s Salute outside the GPO. When President Michael D. Higgins arrived, he inspected the Presidential Guard of Honor, after which he was invited by Kenny to lay a wreath.
Garda snipers watched from atop Clery’s and adjacent buildings as Captain Peter Kelleher read the 100-year-old text of what the toiseach called “Our Proclamation.”
Fr. Seamus Madigan’s prayer contrasted in tone to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic’s stirring words, written for the most part by P.H. Pearse during Holy Week, 1916.
“Look kindly we pray, on all who lost their lives during 1916 and throughout the troubled journey of our island’s history,” said the head chaplain of the Defense Forces.
Madigan referred to the “courageous people of Ireland who dared to hope and dream of a brighter tomorrow for our country and all of its citizens.
“Blessed are all those who sought to build a more inclusive and just society, for they are truly the chosen of God.
“Look kindly we pray, on the people of Ireland, from all traditions, at home and abroad.”
Later in the prayer, Madigan said: “Help us believe in beginnings, to listen to the voices that challenge and to sing a new song for Ireland.
“Together, on this island, we have achieved a new peace. We cherish that peace, as we cherish all the children of this island equally. We pray for all those who have suffered in the Troubles of the past century, and we hope for peace and reconciliation in the century that stretches before us.”
Chaplain Madigan invited children from the four provinces to lay flowers as a symbol of the resolve “to live together on this island in peace and harmony.”
A piper’s lament was followed by the Military Band’s renditions of “Danny Boy” and “Mise Éire,” a minute’s silence for all who died and “Last Post.”
The National Flag, having being lowered at the beginning of the ceremony, was raised to full mast. The playing of “Reveille” preceded the National Anthem with a fly past by the Air Corps.
Former Presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Tanaiste Joan Burton were among the dignitaries who witnessed the military parade on O’Connell Street. Hundreds of relatives of participants in the Rising were also present.
The weekend’s bright, cold sunshine held for the ceremony’s two hours. However, storm clouds quickly gathered and a heavy shower began just as the army narrator explained that the final act, conducted off-site by the military, was a symbol of peace.
While some eyed the quickest route to shelter, others stayed focused on the 21-Gun Salute on the big screens.