The first official act of commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising took place in Dublin on Saturday.
August 1st 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa the unrepentant Fenian hero whose body was brought back from America for burial after he had passed.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood used the funeral as a major show of force and Patrick Pearse’s graveside oration is remembered as the flame that lit the torch of the Easter 1916 Rising.
Pearse's words “The fools the fools they have left us our Fenian dead and as long as Ireland holds these graves Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” became the capstone of the Rising that followed.
The official Irish government commemoration took place yesterday at Glasnevin Cemetery with Irish leader Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins present. A re-enactment of Pearse’s famous speech was the centerpiece of the event.
Separately Sinn Fein organized a reenactment of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa leading a cortege through the streets of Dublin and re-enacting the funeral procession.
O'Donovan Rossa who was a founding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood died in New York on 29 June 1915, aged 84. He had witnessed his own family's sufferings during the Famine in Cork and was radicalized by what he went through.
After he died another Fenian leader, John Devoy, who had come to America with Rossa, cabled 1916 leader Tom Clarke in Dublin to ask what should be done. Clarke replied, "Send his body home at once." Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh began planning a huge funeral as a demonstration of support for Irish independence.
Clarke chose Patrick Pearse, a barrister and schoolteacher who was known as the foremost orator of the time, to give the graveside oration. At that time republican leaders were refraining from making inflammatory speeches for fear of imprisonment at a crucial time in the preparations for a rising. When Pearse asked how far he should go, Clarke answered, "Make it hot as hell, throw discretion to the winds."
On arrival in Dublin, Rossa's remains were taken to the Pro-Cathedral and lay before the High Altar for one night, with a guard of Irish Volunteers. They then lay in state in City Hall, Dublin, again with a guard of honour, until the funeral.
Thousands of Volunteers followed the hearse to Glasnevin Cemetery and hundreds of thousands lined the route.
Following the interment, Pearse delivered his oration. He spoke "on behalf of a new generation that has been re-baptised in the Fenian faith" and called on the Irish people to stand together for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And, he said, "we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone's definition, it is Mitchell's definition, it is Rossa's definition" (that is, an Irish Republic). The tone of the oration made it very clear that an attempt would soon be made to establish an Irish Republic by force of arms. The oration concluded with a challenge to the "Defenders of this Realm":
“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.”