The Irish government, as part of the Ireland 2016, Easter Rising commemorations, has honored the role of women from 1916 to present day in the creation of modern Ireland. The event was held on International Women’s Day.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys welcomed women from across all sectors of Irish society, as well as relatives of those involved in 1916, to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham for a special Ireland 2016 event to highlight the role of women in the events of 1916 on International Women’s Day.
Attendees included representatives from academia, the Oireachtas (Irish government), the legal and judiciary sphere, the arts, sports and community sectors, as well as representatives from activist groups.
President Michael D. Higgins gave a keynote address, outlining the diverse and often boundary-breaking roles played by women in the Rising as well as the impact of the post-1916 conservatism on the role of women in Irish society.
The President was met at the event by an all-female captain’s honor guard, made of members of the Army, Navy and Airs Corps.
Higgins told the crowd that "as we come together to honor the women of 1916 it is appropriate that we recall ... the part they played in laying the foundations of the Ireland in which we live, and that we reflect on all that remains to be done if we are to live up to the dreams of equality and justice that animated those women of our past."
He went on to highlight the obstacles those women involved in the rebellion had to overcome and also commented on their huge contribution during the revolutionary period.
"Given the context of the early 20th Century, a time infused by cultural and social ideals of 'domesticity and respectability' for women, when the conventional path for them was to tend to the affairs of home, not public ones, those women from our past were truly, boundary breakers," President Higgins said.
"As we reflect ... on the contribution women of the Irish revolutionary movement, the irony of their subsequent marginalization in the first five decades of our independence appears more starkly."
The President's speech was followed by an excerpt from a new music commission by Simon O’Connor, performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, dedicated to the widows of those who lost their lives in 1916. There was also a short performance by a local community group of a specially devised piece entitled “Flames, not Flowers.” Viewing areas were provided in the courtyard of the Royal Hospital to accommodate members of the public.
The quilt made by 77 women to remember the 77 women interned at Richmond Barracks in 1916 #InternationalWomensDay pic.twitter.com/rhU7Wttyo5— Philip Bromwell (@philipbromwell) March 8, 2016
President Michael D. Higgins also viewed the specially commissioned “Living for Ireland” quilt, each panel of which was designed by a women’s activist, to commemorate the 77 women held in Richmond Barracks in 1916.
Speaking in advance of the event, Minister Humphreys said, “In the decades that followed the Rising, the role played by women in bringing about our independence was diluted, often deliberately. The stories of those such as Margaret Skinnider and Dr Kathleen Lynn were overlooked and diminished over time. New academic research over the last 10 years, led by women like Sinéad McCoole, has shed new light on the experience of and contribution of women in the events of 1916.
“Recognizing the role of women is a central plank of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Program. One hundred years on from the Rising, we have a unique opportunity to honor the women who put their lives on the line at time when they didn’t even have the vote. Given the opportunities afforded to young women today, it is hard to fully appreciate the bravery of women like Countess Markievicz, who broke the mold in a relentless pursuit for fairness and equality.
“It is particularly fitting that the State pays tribute to the women of the Rising, and the achievements of Irish women at home and abroad over the last 100 years, on International Women’s Day. This is a moment when we, as a nation, remember the enormous contribution made by generations of Irish women, not just in the events of 1916, but right through to the Ireland of today.”