Thousands gather to remember Easter Rising in Dublin

Ministers of State welcome royal presence at 2016 commemorations

President Micheal D Higgins laying a wreath to honour those who died during the Easter Rising in 1916. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister of State Brian Hayes has said he "fundamentally disagrees" with those who say members of Britain's royal family should not be invited to take part in the 2016 centenary commemoration of the Easter Rising.

"This is now an international event and the idea that either the royal family or other countries in the European Union wouldn't be invited, I think is wrong," he said at the GPO on Dubin's O'Connell Street today.
"We've come a long way and we need to celebrate together. The fact that the royal family or a member of the British government would come here is a positive thing and I think we need to be open and tolerant to that.

"We've a lot to share together, as seen in the fantastic visit recently of President Higgins to the United Kingdom, and we need to go forward together because Britain and Ireland are at their best when doing thingss together, in my view."

Thousands gathered to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin this afternoon. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Air Corps fly past over the Jim Larkin Statue at the GPO today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fine Gael chief whip and Minister of State Paul Kehoe said the 2016 celebrations would be an opportunity to build further on the good relationship which now exists between Britain and Ireland.


“We are very close neighbours, we’ve an awful lot in common. A huge amount of Irish people emigrated to Britain and they are raising British families, and I think it would be unfortunate if they were to forget their Irish roots or where their forefathers came from.”

He believed a royal presence at the 2016 commemorations “would be very much welcomed by the vast majoriy of Irish people”.

Both Minister s were speaking at the conclusion of today’s commemoration of the 1916 Rising.

Mr Hayes said: “2016 is complex. A variety of things happened. The great majority of people were fighting for Ireland as members of the British army at the time in the First World War. We need to recognise that.

“I just think some of the commentary by eminent historians, who’ve made a very good contribution to Irish historiography, need to reflect that diverse view of history that we have and for political leaders to be gaining some small time political cachet from this is utterly wrong and totally away from where the people are at the moment.”

Earlier, as many as 175 members of the Defence Forces took part in the 1916 commemoration ceremony at the GPO, including members of the Air Corps and Naval Service.

Their head chaplain Msgr Eoin Thynne prayed: "May your blessing Almighty God, descend upon us as we remember with affection not just our patriots, but the men, women and children whose lives were lost during Easter 1916."

He continued “may we always respect our past, cherish our traditions, forgive our enemies; and recognise that by living in the shadow and the shade of others, in particular our neighbours, one day, hope and history will rhyme.”

Piper Sgt Anthony Byrne played the lament Priosún Cluain Meala following which the Proclamation of Independence was read by Capt Seán Coffey.

A wreath was laid by the President Michael D Higgins, followed by a minute's silence and then the Last Post and Revellie. The ceremony concluded with the national anthem as an Air Corps fly past took place

Among the official party present were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter, and Dublin's deputy Lord Mayor Henry Upton.

Present too was Chief Justice Susan Denham, Attorney General Máire Whelan, Army Chief of Staff Lt Gen Conor O'Boyle, acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, dean of the diplomatic corps and papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown.

Members of the Government present included Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, Ministers of State Paul Kehoe, Joe Costello, Fergus O'Dowd, John Perry and Brian Hayes, TDs Catherine Murphy and Peter Matthews, Senator Katherine Zappone, MEP Emer Costello, Cllr Mannix Flynn, Séan Haughey and Donie Cassidy of Fianna Fáil, and Michael Farrell of the Council of State.

Those present from Northern Ireland included Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, as well as MPs Alasdair McDonnell and Mark Durkan of the SDLP.

Earlier today in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery Minister Jimmy Deenihan was joined by deputy head of mission at the British Embassy Neil Holland and members of the Defence Forces to begin the nationwide day of remembrance to all those who served on Easter week in 1916.

Wreaths were laid by both men at the Sigerson monument which was followed by a minutes silence in memory of all who served during Easter week 1916.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times