The families of the first fatality of the Easter Rising in Dublin and the first rebel to die were united yesterday in a simple gesture of reconciliation.
It was an unexpectedly poignant moment on a day of marches, re-enactments, speeches and songs as communities across Ireland marked the calendar centenary of the 1916 Rebellion.
Constable James O’Brien was shot dead on Easter Monday, April 24th 1916, while guarding Dublin Castle by Seán Connolly from the Irish Citizen Army, who was killed a short time afterwards.
Wreaths were laid at the gates of Dublin Castle to remember Constable O'Brien by the British ambassador Dominick Chilcott and others. The service had concluded when Freya Connolly, Seán Connolly's great granddaughter, placed a bunch of flowers alongside the wreaths.
The gesture took everyone by surprise – not least the organisers of the event, the Harp (Historical and Reconciliatory Police) Society, which remembers the 600 policemen who were killed between 1916 and 1922.
They were about to depart to remember the second policeman to die in the Rising, Constable
, when Ms Connolly stepped forward.
It was a day for dozens of commemorations big and small to mark the actual centenary of the start of the Rising. The official State event took place in Arbour Hill where the executed leaders are buried.
A wreath was laid on behalf of the people of Ireland by President Michael D Higgins following requiem Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Arbour Hill.
The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin said commemorations were as much about the present and the future as they were about the past. They ought to be about a commitment to end “the darkness of poverty and exclusion, of hatred and violence, of self-centeredness and apathy”.
The colours of the national flag were much in evidence at Croke Park for its Laochra event. Colour cards turned the stadium into a riot of green, white and orange while a cast of hundreds of Irish dancers performed on the pitch.
The GPO provided the focal point for several events, including the Reclaim 1916 parade which had set off from Merrion Square.
In Swords an estimated 10,000 people turned out for the flagship event of the Fingal 2016 centenary programme.
In Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim, large crowds visited the restored home of Seán MacDiarmada, one of the signatories of the Proclamation.