Abbey Square in Enniscorthy fell silent yesterday shortly after 1.15pm as thousands gathered to pay tribute to the volunteers of 1916.
Wreaths were laid in front of a statue of Séamus Rafter, commandant of the Enniscorthy volunteers, who held the town for four days in 1916, without a single person being killed in battle, before an order to surrender was sent by Patrick Pearse from his prison cell in Dublin.
Some 150 volunteers rose up in tandem with the rebels in Dublin and took control of the building on April 27th, 1916.
"We've had at least one day of blissful freedom," local volunteer leader Seán Etchingham recorded at the time in his diary, as quoted by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin at the end of his keynote speech.
“We’ve had Enniscorthy under the laws of the Irish Republic for at least one day and it pleases me to learn that the citizens of Enniscorthy are appreciably surprised. A more orderly town couldn’t be imagined. The people of the town are great.”
The minute’s silence was followed by a piper’s lament,
The Last Post
, the raising of the Tricolour for the first time at the new Patriot’s Flag monument,
, and a stirring rendition of
Amhrán na bhFiann
Mr Howlin and outgoing Government chief whip Paul Kehoe laid one wreath on behalf of the Irish people, while another was laid on behalf of the people of Co Wexford by Cllr Paddy Kavanagh, cathaoirleach of Enniscorthy Municipal District, and Cllr Keith Doyle from the 1916 Wexford Commemorative Committee.
Rounds of applause greeted the national anthem, as well as the reading of the Proclamation by Lt Killian Doyle, while the formal events were followed by music from the Co Wexford 1916 Songs Project, a poetry recital, and re-enactments of scenes from 1916.
Dignitaries present included author Colm Tóibín who is from Enniscorthy;
, also a native of the town and now the Irish consul general in New York; the deputy chief-of-staff of the Defence Forces Maj Gen
; Brig Gen
of the Southern Command; and Garda assistant commissioner
Members of the clergy included the Catholic Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan and Rev Nicola Halford, the Church of Ireland Rector of Enniscorthy and Monart Union.
Relatives of volunteers from 1916 were also present, as well as members of local walking and cycling groups who completed the Backroads to the Rising trails, commemorating marches undertaken by those who fought 100 years ago.
In his address, Cllr Kavanagh spoke of the role of Cumann na mBan in the 1916 Rising, which was "completely underestimated" until recently and pointed out that local members under the command of Mary White and Una Brennan transformed the Athenaeum into a hospital and cooking area after the rebellion got under way, and also raised the Tricolour in Enniscorthy.