Tuesday 25 October 2016

Relatives say politicians 'diluting' their role in 1916 commemoration

President MIchael D.Higgins lays a wreath at the 1916 Leaders Commemoration Ceremony at Arbour Hill in 2015
President MIchael D.Higgins lays a wreath at the 1916 Leaders Commemoration Ceremony at Arbour Hill in 2015
President MIchael D.Higgins at the 1916 Leaders Commemoration Ceremony at Arbour Hill.

A descendant of one of those involved in the Easter Rising has said the relatives' role in the annual Arbour Hill Commemoration Ceremony has been "diluted".

President Michael D Higgins laid a wreath in memory of the fallen leaders at the commemoration yesterday.

He was joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Cabinet and religious leaders for the ceremony which honoured the men and women of the Rising 99 years on.

However, Pearse O'Hanrahan, a grand-nephew of Micheal O'Hanrahan who was second-in-command at Boland's Mill, said the role of relatives had been "diluted" at this year's ceremony - with more prominence given to politicians.

"This year 16 people were selected by lottery to represent the families who led the procession out of the church; then the politicians, the President, the Taoiseach and the Cabinet and then the rest of the families.

"Before last year, all the families went out first. It was a family Mass and a family occasion and then the politicians came after.

"But it's been politicised now by diluting the role of the families," he said

Mr O'Hanrahan, from Dundalk, Co Louth, has been attending the commemoration each year for the past 50 years and it has now become a family occasion.

Damien O'Callaghan, a great grand-nephew of Micheal O'Hanrahan, attended yesterday's ceremony with his daughters Hazel (2) and Lily (6), who laid a flower in memory of her ancestor.

"We come here every year," explained Damien, from Blackrock, Co Louth. "Lily is coming since she was two."

At a Mass at the adjacent Church of the Sacred Heart before the wreath-laying ceremony, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare Pat Storey commended the "courageous and generous decision" to invite "a female, Northern Protestant to speak at a Catholic, Republication commemoration.

"For relatives here, this is a vital and a poignant moment. We come to remember our loved ones, and indeed the manner in which they lost their lives.

"We remember, too, the women and children who died in the same event and who are often left out of the story. We remember with sadness all lives lost."

President Higgins attended the ceremony with his wife Sabina.

He was photographed with a large bandage on his chin - understood to be the result of an accident while shaving.

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