Garden to remember children killed during 1916 Rising opens

‘It’s taken 103 years to get their names together in a single site’ – broadcaster Joe Duffy

A commemorative play garden  opened at St Audeon’s Park in Dublin on Thursday by Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, pictured at the fountain with pupils from St Audeon’s and St Francis national schools. Photograph: Dave Meehan

A commemorative play garden opened at St Audeon’s Park in Dublin on Thursday by Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, pictured at the fountain with pupils from St Audeon’s and St Francis national schools. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Dublin’s new Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe was unceremoniously baptised by pupils from local schools on opening the 1916 Children’s Commemorative Play Garden at St Audeon’s Park in the city centre on Thursday.

Turning on the garden’s fountain, he was then repeatedly splashed by children from the St Audeon’s and St Francis national schools as if in response to his request earlier that people should “come here not with sombre feelings but with celebration and respect”.

An initiative of Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and her department, with Dublin City Council, the garden is in memory of the 40 children killed in Dublin during the Easter Rising and inspired by broadcaster Joe Duffy’s book Children of the Rising – the Forgotten Casualties of 1916.

“It’s great. It takes less than a minute to read out the 40 names but it’s taken 103 years to get their names together in one spot in a single site that’s dedicated to them. And it’s great that it’s a play area,” Duffy told The Irish Times.

Seminal week

“Can you imagine the excitement of Easter Week, the horses, the guns, the armoured cars, the chasing, the glass breaking, going into sweetshops. Remember it was Easter Week and most of them would not have got an Easter egg.”

In a speech at the opening ceremony, Duffy recalled how “up 550 people lost their lives in that seminal week in our nation’s history”. The majority of casualties “were civilians, not surprising given that 20,000 armed combatants, primarily British soldiers and many of them Irish, battled it out in the warren of streets, lanes, and alleyways of a bustling city centre”.

He noted how the the names and stories “of the 40 adult civilian women who were killed in the Easter Rising have not been told, let alone remembered” with “no mention either of the 200 adult civilian males who were killed that week”.

‘Unforgiveable omission’

It was “an astonishing figure, an unforgiveable omission”, he said. At the time “children owned the streets of Dublin – this was their playground”.

Ms Zappone described the garden as “a living memory of the children” who died in 1916. It had been designed following consultation with 220 local pupils.

It was “their vision that it would be a place where we could remember the children but also a place of fun, and where young people could gather”, she said.

“What a beautiful park we’re in right now.”

Among those in attendance were relatives of the 40 children who died in 1916, Minister of State Catherine Byrne and other local representatives.