herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

'The centenary was magnificent in honouring those who fought for Ireland'

Families

Sibeal Doolan
Sibeal Doolan

Families of combatants in the 1916 Rising spoke of being deeply moved by the centenary events in Dublin yesterday.

Many wore the medals awarded to their relatives as they watched the ceremonies and listened to the military bands.

Sean Egan (80), from Rathfarnham, wore medals on his overcoat and spoke of his two uncles who marched into battle for the Irish Republic in Dublin a century ago.

"My uncle Thomas Kelly was in the Boland's Mills garrison and my uncle Joseph Kelly was in the GPO garrison. Thomas was wounded but he survived," said Mr Egan.

"The centenary was magnificent in honouring those who fought for Ireland."

Mr Egan recalled the 50th anniversary commemoration in Dublin when Joseph Kelly marched with the veterans as Thomas had died by then.

"I remember the veterans marching but the band had to reduce the number of steps per minute because of their age. That was an incredibly emotional thing to see then," he said.

"And now it was tremendous to see the events today." The face of two-year-old Sean Foster, the youngest victim of the Rising, is on one of the commemorative stamps. He was shot dead in crossfire in the inner city.

The child's relatives, Mary Christian and her daughter Aisling (23), from Dublin, attended the ceremonies. Mary's father was Sean's cousin. The commemorations were very moving, she said.

Sibeal Doolan (84), from Harold's Cross, spoke warmly of her father, Joseph Doolan, who fought with the volunteers in the South Dublin Union.

"He survived and lived to be 92. He was imprisoned in Frongoch camp in Wales but he spoke very little about his experiences. Many didn't speak about those days," she said.

"I feel wonderfully proud of him. When they played the national anthem today and raised the flag, it really was a quite wonderful moment."

Fianna Fail TD Eamon O'Cuiv, grandson of 1916 leader Eamon de Valera, said he was accompanied during the ceremonies by Ann Hearsey, a grandniece of British army officer Edo Hitzen who took the surrender of his grandfather's garrison at Boland's Mills.

"Today, the ceremony brought back the enormity of the sacrifices of so many volunteers in 1916 who were ordinary people with families," said Mr O Cuiv.

Kevin Carroll (54), from Wexford, wore the medals of his grandfather, John Carroll, who was 17 when he took up arms in Enniscorthy in 1916.

"I feel really proud of him today," he said.

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