Decade of centenaries must respect all factions
In 1899, Gerald had joined the Sherwood Foresters and fought with distinction in the Boer War. In 1908, he joined the Birmingham City Police but rejoined the British army in 1914 with the Northumberland Fusiliers. In February 1916, he was transferred to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, stationed in the Royal Barracks
On April 24th, 1916, his 10th Battalion was ordered to relieve Dublin Castle. As they made their way up the quays they came under heavy fire from the Mendacity Institute, and Gerald was killed by a sniper’s bullet to the head. He was buried in the family grave in Glasnevin.
Arthur Neilan joined the Volunteers when he turned 18. He was 21 when the Rising broke out and part of the Four Courts Garrison under Ned Daly. He was transported to Knutsford Detention Barracks on May 1st, 1916. He was released under a general amnesty in 1917 and returned to his mother’s address at 4 Mount Harold Terrace, Leinster Road, Dublin.
Arthur served with the 4th Battalion Dublin brigade in the War of Independence and remained with the army during the Irish Civil War. He died on November 24th, 1944, in the military hospital St Bricin’s and his home address was given as Leinster Road. He was buried in the same grave in Glasnevin as Gerald.
It is a complex time and perhaps the deeper we delve the more complex it becomes but we need to learn more about this decade and establish the facts. We have nothing to fear from the truth of 100 years ago. One hundred and eighty years ago, in the midst of vitriolic and embittered debates for Catholic Emancipation, Daniel O’Connell helped establish Goldenbridge Cemetery and then Prospect Cemetery, now known as Glasnevin Cemetery.
Prime minister Robert Peel and King George IV showed no grace and only grudgingly accepted emancipation.
O’Connell rose above them and decreed that these cemeteries should be for people of all religions and none, because he wished to be buried with his “Protestant and Dissenter brethren just as he lived with them”. O’Connell displayed remarkable inclusivity. As a nation we must show the same inclusivity precisely because we are now just as we were a century ago – a most diverse people.
In preparing for the Easter Rising centenary we must deal with the elephant in the room. Why did so few participate in the Rising while so many fought in the first World War? And why did those who survived the trenches either stay away or return to Ireland by the back door, afraid to speak of what they had done? Answering these questions will enable us to better understand this important period.
Hopefully we will then not be afraid of remembering all the sons and daughters of this island who died in this period and be prepared to commemorate them all as Irish.
John Green is chairman of Glasnevin Trust, including Glasnevin Cemetery