1916 centenary: Significance of the past makes us ponder on the future

Commemorations might be about the past, but many of the people attending the 1916 Rising parade were thinking of the future and of their children’s futures.

1916 centenary: Significance of the past makes us ponder on the future

Families were among the crowd, determined that their little ones would grow up to say: “I was there.”

But there were more immediate concerns for those little ones, such as gobbling Easter eggs, gasping at tanks and asking endless questions, such as: How old is he? (the President); how do they keep a straight face for so long? (the soldiers); why are they speaking Irish, when no one understands it? (the commentary); and have you only got cheese sandwiches? (the mammy).

Karen and Sean Kiernan, however, felt the significance would become clear for their children, Micheál, 4; Aoibheann, 2, and Sean Óg, eight months.

“I’m a US citizen, because I lived and worked there for a long time, so I’m part of the Irish story of emigration,” Sean said.

“We’re back from New York five years now, but the children could well end up living anywhere in the world, and we want them to know their roots, so, wherever they go, they’ll have somewhere to belong to.”

Joanne Martin had brought sons, Dillon, 7, clutching a handmade tricolour, and Sam, 4, cosy in a Spiderman hat, for similar reasons.

“I’ve told them all about it and you’d be surprised how well they grasp it. It’s important that children know their history, if they’re to understand the country they come from,” she said.

Dublin Bus driver, Paddy Byrne, brought his 14-year-old son, Darragh, a self-confessed history nut who was already an authority on the subject.

“It’s just something we’re both interested in. We’ve no family connection with the Rising at all. In fact, my grandad fought on the other side in the Second World War, so I wonder what he’d be thinking, seeing me here today,” said Paddy.

“He lost an arm in the war. He had a fake one, with a boxing glove on it, which we thought was hilarious.

“He loved the Queen, which we also thought was hilarious. He had a picture of her on his wall and we’d be giving him a hard time, and he’d say the British looked after him, with his pension and his healthcare, and everything.

“We’d only be slagging him. Live and let live is what I say. It’s the only way we’re all going to get on in life.”

Sisters Liz Masterson, from Sligo, and Anne Walsh and Brenda Doyle, from Dublin, had no family links to the Rising, either, but Anne said pride drew them to the commemorations.

“We’re proud in a humble way, though. You see the parades in North Korea, with the army taking all day to march through the squares, and our whole Defence Forces would fit in one square. But that’s all we need. We don’t have a lot, but we can be proud of what we have.”

Patrick Logue, who left his native Glenvar, in Co Donegal, in 1965, and now lives in Glasgow, did have a connection with the Rising — albeit an accidental one. “My granduncle had emigrated to England, and he arrived back in Dublin for good on Easter Monday, with his wife and three children. I don’t know what they must have thought when they landed in the middle of all the mayhem,” he said.

Jimmy McLoughlin — Big Mac, as he was known — could have been forgiven for picking up the family’s cases and taking the next boat back, but they stayed and began a new life in Wexford.

“It’s important to remember the rebels’ sacrifice. They didn’t hide like the terrorists in Brussels. They came out openly and faced up to the army like men. That’s true conviction and courage,” said Patrick.

John Lee and Cathal O’Donoghue weren’t convinced the rebels would have been thrilled at the way their sacrifice was being commemorated.

“There’s only a few thousand people allowed on O’Connell Street ,when there’s room on it for 150,000. It should be accessible to everyone,” said Cathal, annoyed that ordinary citizens were kept off the main thoroughfare to allow seated viewing for dignatories and invited guests.

“The rebels didn’t die for a few thousand, they died for everybody,” agreed John.

But the extended Hickey family, from Douglas, in Cork, were giving it their thumbs-up. “We got a great viewing point, everyone’s in good mood, and the weather stayed fine. It was a lovely, quite moving ceremony,” said Trudi Hickey.

Carmel Hickey was equally impressed: “You would hope, maybe, the rebels’ spirits are around to see this. I think they’d feel proud of what they achieved.”

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