Mountaineer Taoiseach commemorates Rising while Dr Who puts spring in Shatter’s step
Volunteers of 1916 would be comforted to see the Republic in such capable hands
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Lord Mayor of Dublin Naoise Ó Muirí arrived for the 1916 commemoration ceremony yesterday by their usual mode of transport – motor car.
Frankly, we were expecting something a bit more exciting from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter following his startling weekend declaration that he is, in fact, Minister for Time.
And in case we hadn’t fully appreciated this little-known fact, Time Lord Shatter ended his communique on the clocks going forward with an intriguing reminder.
“For those interested, it should be noted that a new series of Doctor Who commences on BBC1 tonight, Saturday 30 March, at 6.15pm,” his statement said.
Not your usual class of communication from the Department of Justice, it must be said.
Was Alan trying to tell us something?
Is an alien invasion imminent?
Or did the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors slip something funny in their favourite Minister’s tea?
(Our money is on the AGSI.)
The President travelled from the Phoenix Park to mark the 97th anniversary of the Easter Rising; Enda Kenny started out for the GPO from his apartment near Leinster House; and there was speculation that Mr Shatter would warp straight to 2013 from the smouldering ruins of Sackville Street.
Accordingly there was deep disappointment when he rolled up to the GPO in a boring silver-coloured Audi.
As “Minister with Responsibility for Time” the least he could have done was landed outside Clerys in the Tardis.
The Taoiseach expressed himself unaware of the fact that his Minister for Justice has turned to science fiction to help him get over his harrowing experience at the recent Garda conferences.
Mountaineering Enda didn’t see his Alan’s strange press release on Saturday because, as he explained, “I was returning from the Nephin range at the time.”
The constabulary is revolting, Big Jim Larkin’s Labour Party is in tatters, the Taoiseach is running up mountains in Mayo and the man in charge of the Army thinks he’s a time-travelling immortal – what a comfort it could have been to the men of 1916 had they known their beloved Republic would be in such capable hands nearly a century on from their sacrifice.
Speaking of big Jim, yesterday’s ceremonies took place beside his statue in the centre island on O’Connell Street. Unlike his Labour successors, Larkin can’t go into hiding, because he’s bolted to a granite plinth on Dublin’s main thoroughfare.
Shivering for Ireland
“Great shot of the politicians there, with Jim Larkin behind them holding his arms up in despair,” said an onlooker in the VIP corral, where various dignitaries stood in solidarity with the viewing public and shivered for Ireland.
Michael D got the full value out of his Donegal tweed suit, standing to attention for the duration without as much as a top coat or pair of gloves to stave off the icy chill.
He inspected the guard of honour and laid a wreath outside the GPO. The Taoiseach, snug in a navy Crombie, made a speech.
A gleaming Tricolour flew proudly above the balustrade, and when it was lowered to half mast a hush descended on the crowd.
The Army chaplin read a prayer recalling “all those who gave their lives in the struggle for independence”. The Defence Forces had 350 troops from various divisions on parade to mark the occasion.
Bandsman Seán Maher piped a beautiful lament before Capt Eoin Rochford stepped forward to read the Proclaimation on the steps of the GPO. Again, the crowd went quiet. A lone voice called out “Hear! Hear!” when he finished and the public applauded.
After the wreath-laying and a minute’s silence, the Last Post sounded – always an irresistibly touching moment.
The respectful crowd – children quiet in their parents’ arms, the older people bowing their heads in reflection – feeling the emotion in this communal celebration of national pride and belonging.
Then a bracing blast of reveille and the raising of the flag over the statue of Hibernia, before the band, drawn from the Defence Forces brass, reed and pipe bands, burst into a spirited rendition of the national anthem.
Then four Pilatus PC9 aircraft from the Air Corps flew low in formation down the length of O’Connell Street.
The servicemen and women marched away, the crowd applauding as they left.
It was a wonderful event.
Old Minister Time
Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, aka Old Minister Time, was explaining himself.
“One of the strange and odd things that the Minister for Justice and Equality has to do is issue statements twice a year to tell people whether the clock is going forward or going back. So, apparently, I’ve responsibility for time,” he chirruped, before telling us he’s a big Dr Who fan.
”I think it a great programme, I think we should celebrate the fact that it started a new series yesterday.”
The Minister for Clocks has a sci-fi rap sheet. He once dressed up as Captain Kirk for a Star Trek edition of his constituency newsletter.
Expect a squadron of Daleks for the centenary in three years’ time.