Thousands defy Luas strike for Reflecting the Rising events
Biggest public event in Ireland blessed by good weather and a large turnout
Children from the Rainbow Drama School commemorate the children who died in the Rising, one of many events in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Maxwells
The Reflecting the Rising Easter Monday event was billed as the biggest public event in Irish history and it was already a success before it even started.
The sign “sold out” appeared weeks in advance for dozens of locations where talks and recitals were taking place as part of the event across Dublin though there was no selling involved. All the events were free.
The Luas strike but it did not deter tens of thousands of people from participating in what was a joint initiative between RTÉ and Ireland 2016, the Government’s programme to mark the centenary of the rebellion of Easter 1916.
The streets were thick with people all day and many dressed in period costumes. Even the weather performed beautifully and both Merrion Square, where children’s activities and crafts from 1916 went on, and also St Stephen’s Green, were packed.
These were the wishes from 1916 and people were invited to tie tags to the branches with wishes for 2016. “I wish to come first and win a trophy,” was one wish. Others wished for world peace, a united Ireland and even that “my husband would be nicer to me”.
O’Connell Street and Smithfield also held many outdoor events including a mock battle between Irish Volunteers and the British army in Smithfield.
Hundreds of talks were held throughout the city. At DIT, Irish Times foreign editor Chris Dooley, the author of Redmond: A Life Undone, sought to explain the Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond’s response to the Rising.
In a talk at Iveagh House, the historian Felix Larkin was critical of the recent RTÉ documentary 1916. “Its production values cannot be faulted – it is superbly well made – but it is not history,” Mr Larkin said.
In the Unitarian Church, Mary and Teresa O’Donnell spoke about the often fractious relationship between Patrick and Willie Pearse’s sisters Margaret and Mary Brigid Pearse.
At the College of Surgeons, a panel led by the broadcaster Blathnaid Ní Chofaigh spoke about Margaret Skinnider, who was wounded in the same building. Ms Ní Chofaigh said many of the women of Easter Week were privileged but the only privilege Skinnider had was her Scottish accent which allowed her to move from place to place.
The day was rounded off by a performance, the culmination of Ireland 2016 and RTÉ’s programme of events over the Easter weekend. Artists performing on Centenary at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre included Imelda May, Jack L, Gavin James, The High Kings, Colm Wilkinson, Danny O’Reilly, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Sharon Shannon, Dónal Lunny, John Sheahan, Celine Byrne, and Seo Linn.
Imelda May said: “To commemorate the sacrifice those brave martyrs made for us is very important to me and my family. My own grandparents were part of this.”