Saturday 23 March 2019

President leads nation in tribute to Rising heroes

Capt Sean McCarthy reads the Proclamation
Capt Sean McCarthy reads the Proclamation

Hundreds gathered to observe the 102nd anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin yesterday, as President Michael D Higgins laid a wreath in memory of our nation's fallen heroes.

The President arrived in a cavalcade including 15 Defence Forces motorcycles riding ahead of his black presidential car, as a crowd of young and old tried to catch a glimpse of the head of State through their camera phones, each one delighted to steal a moment in history.


Mr Higgins strode toward the GPO, the scene of our nation's proud rebellion, to inspect the guard of honour before laying a laurel wreath in memory of those who fought and died for Irish liberation.

The Defence Forces' head chaplain Fr Seamus Madigan led a prayer in memory of those who had paid with their lives for our freedom.

"We give thanks to their bravery," Fr Madigan said, as he asked Irish citizens to "remember ourselves to listen to the voices of the poor and disadvantaged".

"Thank you Lord for our country, our people and our flag," he added.

The priest urged Ireland to embrace diversity and "to see beauty in every person".

A grey cloud descended upon O'Connell Street, as members of the public huddled together behind a boundary fence, most wrapped up in hats and scarves.

The cherished relatives of those lost in the Rising stood close to proceedings as they paid their respects to their loved ones, the heroes of Irish history, and a minute's silence was held.

Only an infant's muffled cries could be heard in the background and the slight humming of a Luas as it passed by across Abbey Street in the city.

Visitors from across the world looked on from a distance, trailing suitcases and stopping briefly to contemplate the historic relevance of this moment, played out each Easter Sunday.

The Tricolour sitting atop the GPO was lowered to half mast, a tiny shard of light peeped through the clouds of grey and Captain Sean McCarthy, from Borris, Co Carlow, read the Proclamation, as again silence descended upon the crowd.

Yesterday's role was said to be an "immensely proud moment" for Capt McCarthy and his family, including wife Edwina and son Harry, father Sean, mother Bernie and brother, Brian.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris, Education Minister Richard Bruton and former president Mary McAleese were in attendance, as well as Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, who chatted and smiled among the crowd.

Two female members of the Defence Forces stood among 15 male colleagues in front of the GPO, as the names of the 1916 leaders were read out and greeted by unanimous and lasting applause from the crowd.

A brass band, a pipe band and representatives of the Naval Service also took part in the ceremony, before the moving and symbolic event concluded with a flyover from the Air Corps.


Meanwhile, the last direct family link to the 16 leaders executed after the Easter 1916 rebellion has ended.

Family members confirmed that Fr Joseph Mallin, a Jesuit priest who had lived in Hong Kong for many years, died early yesterday morning at the age of 104.

He was the son of Michael Mallin, second-in-command in James Connolly's Irish Citizen Army, and in charge of the rebels' contingent in St Stephen's Green during Easter week.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin said: "Fr Mallin, as the last surviving child of an executed leader of the Easter 1916 Rising, was a tangible connection to one of the defining moments of our country's history."

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