Galway school brings 1916 Rising to life with full-size cutouts

Scoil Sailearna has drawn up its own proclamation as part of celebrations

Actor Alan Rickman was better as Snape, a wizard in Harry Potter, than he was as Éamon de Valera in Michael Collins, according to the children in a Galway Gaeltacht primary school.

The pupils in Scoil Sailearna in Indreabhán have thought deeply about the Rising. Both the Irish and English who died, and the looters, deserve to be remembered. Sweets, they noted, were good value in 1916.

The school has strong links to the Rising. Principal Fearghas Mac Lochlainn is a great grand-nephew of Patrick Pearse. Two pupils, Ruadhán and Iseult Ní Chuláin, are great-great-great grandchildren of James Connolly.

Four siblings, Jamie, Emer, Emmett and Dylan Ó Lionáin, are related to Jennie Wyse Power, president of Cumann na mBan, while Cainnear, Oscar and Glaisne Mac Réamoinn are related to Ailbhe and Cathal Ó Monacháin.


Roger Casement

Ailbhe Ó Monacháin was with

Liam Mellows

during the Galway “rising”, while Cathal lost his life in Kerry while en route to assist with Roger Casement’s bid to land guns from a German submarine on




“He was driving down to Kerry for the gun landing and got the directions wrong and they drove off a pier. The guy who knew the way was in the boot, sleeping,” said Oscar, who visited his relative’s grave over the Easter weekend.

Scoil Sailearna's historical ties were not talked about until teachers and pupils began to prepare for the arrival of Defence Forces officers, the tricolour and the Proclamation in the months before the official Easter commemorations.

For staff, it was a challenge. Textbooks do not go into detail. Teacher Traolach Ó Conghaile wondered how to explain to the children that the State owed its foundation to a series of violent acts. The concept of "blood sacrifice" – a theme not just of Pearse's Rising, but of the culture of violence and militarism across Europe during the first World War – does not feature on the curriculum.

Still, the school entered into the spirit of the occasion: the pupils worked enthusiastically on a "proclamation for a new generation" and on learning Amhrán 1916, a song written by Mr Mac Lochlainn.

Life-size figures

Artist Dara McGee made life-size figures of the seven Proclamation signatories out of hardboard and put them by the school’s boundary wall, clearly visible to motorists on the Cois Fharraige road.

Pupils in fourth and fifth class, taught by Aisling Ní Chéidigh, are keen to talk about the Rising: though the social and economic issues that dominated the time are as important for them as details of the fighting.

Preparing their own proclamation, the pupils wanted houses for the homeless, medical cards for the elderly, an end to racism, protections for refugees and more hospital beds.

A cut in taxes was also proposed by fourth and fifth class pupils for inclusion in the Forógra Scoil Sailearna. They called for an end to drug-taking, a ban on holding arms by anyone except the Garda, more gardaí in rural areas, equality for men and women, the tackling of pollution and global warming. Reflecting their roots, they also hoped that people would "speak more Irish".

Emer Ní Lionnáin, who explained that the Proclamation was signed in the house owned by her relative, Jennie Wyse Power in Dublin's Henry Street, had recently seen Neil Jordan's 1996 film Michael Collins. She noticed that "Snape of Harry Potter" was playing a key role. "But he really was much better in Harry Potter," she said.

The older children in fifth and sixth class displayed a keen social conscience in their ambitions for a new proclamation, wanting to "end wars and killing", reduce consumption of sugar, alcohol and drugs, along with achieving "freedom" for Northern Ireland.

They learned a prayer written by their teacher, Mr Ó Conghaile, one remembering the loss of the flame of youth, the suffering of children, while asking for the “same mercy” for English soldiers and looters.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times