In a weekend of celebration, Sunday’s showpiece parade through Dublin watched by 250,000 people and relayed on newscasts across the world was a glittering reminder of how far Ireland has progressed in the 100 years since a small band of revolutionaries challenged the might of the British Empire during Easter Week.
People from all across Ireland and the globe flocked to Dublin to join in the centenary celebrations of the Rising in an emotional outpouring of patriotism. Onlookers hung from walls and mounted bus shelters to catch the commemoration parade as it passed across a three-mile route through Dublin city center.
The city was the only place to be on Easter Sunday as the Proclamation was read outside the GPO, the headquarters of the Rising, and a spectacular six-plane flight from the Air Corps in tight wing-to-wing formation 750 feet above the crowd left a thundering jet-stream Irish Tricolor in its wake.
Conspicuous among the crowds was a large contingent of tourists and visitors who were watching the proceedings.
Emmett O’Reilly, 44, originally from Newry, Co. Down, but now living in Staffordshire in England, said, “We came over for the whole week to purposely coincide with this weekend.”
He was accompanied by his daughters Gráinne, aged eight, Saoirse, five, and wife Julia. “It’s nice to see a lot of non-Irish folk here as well, and obviously my children grew up out of Ireland so it’s important that they know who they are,” O’Reilly added.
New Zealanders Jack Doherty, 66, and Janine Carroll, 62, timed their ancestral fact-finding mission to Ireland to coincide with the centenary events.
The Irish Times described the commemoration as “dignified and uplifting” in its tone and execution.
The centerpiece of the events was a state commemoration ceremony outside the GPO. It was followed by a military parade, marching to honor all those who died.
The gold-fringed flag of the Irish Republic flew from one corner of the GPO from the spot where it was hoisted in 1916. Across the road, on the roof of the former Imperial Hotel, flew the Starry Plough of James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army.
Among VIP guests were the Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley and British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott.
Four children, representing the four provinces, placed bouquets of daffodils beside the place where Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation. There were white Easter lilies there too. The military band played “Danny Boy.”
Army Captain Peter Kelleher from Douglas in Cork strode forward and stood in front of the GPO portico. He held out the Proclamation and began to read.
It took him more than four minutes to read it, and at the end, he called out the names of the signatories.
After the reading of the Proclamation, the band played a rendition of “Misé Eire” and then President Micheal D. Higgins was invited by acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny to lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish people in honor of all those who died.
In a little side street next to the GPO, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, his daughter Mary with him, stayed there until the ceremony concluded. He will be 96 in three weeks.
He told Irish Times reporter Miriam Lord, “My father and his brother were both sentenced to death in 1916. My step-uncle was shot dead by a British soldier. He was only 19.”
There was no way Cosgrave was going to miss the commemoration.