1916 centenary: Remembering the ‘short lives and big dreams’

Former presidents and taoisigh join Kenny, Higgins and host of dignitaries for ceremony

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny chats to President Michael D Higgins at the Easter Sunday commemoration ceremony and parade from O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Maxwells

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny chats to President Michael D Higgins at the Easter Sunday commemoration ceremony and parade from O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Maxwells


The Easter Sunday centenary commemoration at the GPO was told the “short lives and big dreams” of the men, women and children of 1916 “extended the horizons of our hopes”.

The ceremony, the centrepiece of the commemorations of the Rising, saw President Michael D Higgins lay a wreath in front of the GPO after being invited to do so by acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Fr Seamus Madigan, the head chaplain of the Defence Forces, read a prayer of remembrance for “all who lost their lives during 1916 and throughout the troubled journey of our island’s history”.

“On this Easter Day of new beginnings, we remember the men, the women and the children of 1916 whose short lives and big dreams extended the horizons of our hopes,”he said. “As we reflect on our past we thank you for all the courageous people of Ireland who dared to hope and dream of a brighter tomorrow for our country and all of its citizens.

“Blessed are those who sought to build a more inclusive and just society for they are truly the chosen of god. Look kindly, we pray, on the people of Ireland from all traditions home and abroad.”

Fr Madigan also said “we sing a new song to God”.

“A song of compassion, inclusion and engagement. A song of listening, social justice and respect. A song of unity, diversity, equality and peace. A song of céad míle fáilte and respect for our environment.

“And now, another day begins. Give us courage to step on new ground, eyes young again with energy and dreams. Help us to believe in beginnings, to listen to the voices that challenge and to sing a new song for Ireland. Together on this island, we have achieved a new peace. We cherish that peace as we cherish all of the children of this island equally.”

Before Fr Madigan’s prayer, the tricolour over the GPO was lowered to half mast.

Four provinces

Sean MaherSalley Gardens

The children were Maria Mellon (11) from Sandyford, Dublin; Alex Lucas (10) from Kilcohan, Waterford; Liam Henry (10) from Claremorris, Co Mayo, and Tony O’Brien (10) from Portglenone, Co Antrim.

The military band then played Danny Boy, followed by the reading of the Proclamation by Capt Peter Kelleher of the Defence Forces Training Centre. This was followed by the band playing Mise Éire, with Enda Kenny then asking President Michael D Higgins to lay the wreath in front of the GPO. A minute’s silence was observed, followed by the playing of the Last Post. The tricolour above the GPO was restored to full mast and the band played Reveille, followed by the national anthem.

Trailing smoke

Amhrán na bhFiannAir Corps

After the conclusion of the wreath-laying ceremony, the President and Taoiseach went to the viewing stand to observe the commemoration parade, which saw members of the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, Dublin Fire Brigade, Irish Prison Service, Revenue and Customs, the National Ambulance Service, St John’s Ambulance, the Irish Red Cross, the Irish Coast Guard, the RNLI, Civil Defence and other organisations march down O’Connell Street.

The parade began at 10am on St Stephen’s Green, with members of the emergency services joining the Defence Forces at Dublin Castle. Sgt Jimmy Pearse, a great grandson of James Connolly, carried the flag of the Irish Citizen Army.

As well as the President and acting Taoiseach, those in attendance at the GPO included acting Tánaiste Joan Burton, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and former taoisigh Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Liam Cosgrave. Mr Cosgrave, who will be 96 in three weeks, observed events from a car at the top of Prince’s Street.

Also at the GPO were former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, Chief Justice Susan Denham and former chief justice John Murray, Ministers Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar, Paschal Donohoe, Frances Fitzgerald, Heather Humphreys, James Reilly, Alex White, Charlie Flanagan, Richard Bruton, Alan Kelly and junior ministers Paul Kehoe, Simon Harris, Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin, Dara Murphy, Kevin Humphreys, Sean Sherlock, Tom Hayes and Jimmy Deenihan.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, outgoing Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, Martin Fraser, secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood were also present.

The British government was represented by Dominick Chilcott, its ambassador to Ireland.