Huge Crowds Attend 1916 Anniversary Parade
By Frank Shouldice, Contributor
June / July 2006
Over 100,000 people thronged into Dublin’s O’Connell Street to honor the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. In a spectacle regarded as a dress rehearsal for the Rising’s centenary in 2016, a military parade involving some 2,500 members of the Irish Army and Defense Forces passed by a review stand near the General Post Office, rebel headquarters in 1916. Three planes from the Air Corps made an overhead pass and Captain Tom Ryan of the 6th Infantry Battalion read aloud the Proclamation of Independence. The crowd then offered a minute’s silence in memory of all those who died in the historic revolt. The day’s commemoration began when Taoiseach Bertie Ahern laid a wreath at Kilmainham Jail, where captured 1916 leaders were executed by the British forces. “By gathering here today, 90 years on from the Easter Rising, our presence is testimony to the fact that our generation still cherishes the ideals of the courageous men and women who fought for Ireland in Easter week and during the War of Independence, that we honor and respect their selfless idealism and patriotism, and that we remember with gratitude the great sacrifices they made for us,” he told those gathered at the jail’s stonebreaker’s yard. The parade was observed by President Mary McAleese, and all the main political parties were represented with the notable exception of Sinn Féin. With preparations for the 2016 centenary already being discussed, the mainstream parties have been accused of opportunism in reclaiming a memorial tradition they virtually ignored for years. The Provisional IRA claim to be successors of the 1916 tradition, but many commentators see Easter week’s pageantry as a government effort to distinguish the 1916 rebels from the present-day IRA. The spectacle went off without incident, in contrast to serious rioting which prevented a loyalist march from passing down O’Connell Street two months ago. Other Easter commemoration services were held in Belfast, Cork, Galway and Kilkenny.