A look at the 1916 Easter Rising Commemorations in Dublin through the lens of Cliff Carlson.
I’m glad I did it. I’m half Swedish, I have no connection with the Easter Rising that I know of, and don’t know how much Irish I have in me. But whatever the amount, my blood ran a proud green on this three-week trip.
I was invited by the Irish Government to cover the Centenary 1916-2016 events and I took them up on it. I’m glad I did. The trip was an experience of a lifetime.
But, let’s start at the beginning. I arrived March 24th on a bright, warm and sunshiny day. I’ve been to Ireland enough to know that it was the kind of day that should be taken advantage of.
Out came the camera and, after a stroll around St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, O’Connell Street, and on past Trinity College and the Liffey, some 86 photos were in the bag. Not bad for one day and jet lag.
The Green was being enjoyed by the Irish masses as I strolled the perimeter walk and took photos of all the placards telling the story of Easter Sunday, April 24, 1916, and the week that followed. Far from sweeping information under the rug, I found that there was an amazing amount of signs, displays and reenactors all over the city, telling the story of the Rising in a myriad of different ways.
Fully decorated with depictions of 1916, tour buses were everywhere. Book shop displays were all about 1916. Liberty Hall, the birthplace of the Citizen Army, was most impressive, as it had been painted on three sides with images of historic figures and statements about the Rebellion.
I stayed at the old Burlington Hotel which is now a Hilton Doubletree. On most days it was easy to catch a bus or a cab into the center of Dublin, but on the morning of the Easter Rising Parade there wasn’t a cabbie who would take me to O’Connell Street. Almost every road into the City Centre had signs for detours and bypasses.
So I walked, and I’m glad I did. I had to go through St. Stephen’s Green to get to Grafton Street and then O’Connell Street, and it was alive with re-enactors. People were gathered around a tree with hundreds of ribbons hanging from its branches in memory of the number of children – 38 under the age of 16 – killed in the Rising, and I paused to pay my respects.
As I left the Green and went up Grafton Street it was only 9:30 in the morning but the streets were already filling with people who wanted to be on hand for the parade at noon.
It seemed that everyone who was ever in public office had pride of place in front of the GPO for the parade, and the public couldn’t get any closer than two blocks, but RTÉ had brought in 22 of the biggest video screens available and placed them strategically around the streets of Dublin so everyone could see what was going on up and down the parade route.
It was interesting to see the pride, pomp and circumstance that was on display. Every military group and rescue group in Ireland was represented. The ceremonies were executed with efficiency and respect, with the laying of the wreaths at the GPO, Moore Street, and in the Stone Breaker’s yard in Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders of the Rising had been executed.
Children representing the four provinces, Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht, laid bouquets of daffodils in front of the GPO.
Ireland should be proud of the events it put on over Easter weekend. Everything I saw was carried out with dignity, heads held high in commemorating Ireland’s freedom, but no rubbing it in anyone’s face. No burning effigies, no pallet fires, no flag burnings. The only incident of disturbance that I came across, was the hecklers at the Moore Street commemorations who took aim at Minister of Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts & the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, over the controversial issue of water charges being introduced for households in the Republic.
All in all, Ireland did herself proud with her commemorations, and has set the bar high for what comes next.
After 19 trips to Ireland, you might think I would be getting tired of it by now, but there is so much to see and do in this big little country that I see no problem in making another 19 trips if I can.
I took these photographs in Cork City, Dingle, County Kerry, and Dublin. The icing on the cake was meeting one Adrian Carrie on Grafton Street. Adrian is a Dub, and he flies for Ryan Air. Adrian offered to fly me over Dublin in his small plane to get aerial shots of the city, and he did so at his own expense.
I knew the people of Ireland were the real reason I have gone so many times, and this 20th trip over just solidified it. ♦
Cliff Carlson is the owner and publisher of The Irish American News based in Chicago. All photos courtesy of the author.