Attending my first commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, held at Waverley Cemetery on April 1, I was struck by the solemnity of the occasion.
The hushed tones of those in attendance denoted a reverence for the event that time and distance has not dimmed. Even the children attending on this hot and sultry autumn day in Sydney’s eastern suburbs seem to catch the sadness among those gathered to remember.
But it is also a celebration of the bravery of those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom. And it is certainly an affirmation of the continued struggle for justice and unity in Ireland.
Larry Gartland said the Easter Rising has special significance for him as he is originally from Dublin where the rising began. He is involved in the Save Moore Street campaign, which is trying to prevent the Irish state from destroying the old tenement buildings in Dublin that served as the rebels’ final headquarters. Yet another shopping centre is proposed for the site, replacing the market traders who have sold their goods on the same street for generations.
Martin Longwill, who has been involved with republican politics both here and in Ireland, said: “Easter is the most important date in the republican calendar as it not only commemorates the 1916 Rising, but all those who have fought and died for a 32-county socialist republic since.”
Marin Brown, convenor of the James Connolly Association in Australia, Sydney Branch, which was largely responsible for the organisation of the commemoration, said it is important to keep the Irish revolutionary tradition alive. This year is special, he said, as it is the 150th anniversary of the birth of James Connolly, Ireland’s greatest republican socialist.
The proclamation of the provisional government was read out in English and Gaelic, as was the roll of honour of the 1916 martyrs who were executed following the Rising. They were followed by a history of the life and activism of James Connolly.
Included was this quote from James Connolly: “If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic, your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”