On Sunday, the Defence Forces owned the streets but on Easter Monday it was the turn of the citizens’ army to reclaim their territory.
They turned out in extraordinary numbers across the country at ceremonies to mark the moment when the first shot of the 1916 Rising was fired, and at celebrations of the everyday people who lives were changed forever in that pivotal moment of history.
Dublin was the centrepiece of the Reflecting The Rising themed commemorations, the city centre north and south of the Liffey turned into one vast pedestrian zone dedicated to the cultural heritage of the city and country.
The work and play, conditions and ambitions of the people of 1916 were brought to life in re-enactments and recreations of their lives on stages and in open air venues while some 300 talks were delivered and debates led by historians, commentators, and relatives of the rebels.
Free outdoor concerts brought music that spanned the century to thousands, hundreds of costumed actors strolled the streets with stories to tell, and a huge team of volunteer guides led walking tours to some of the main sights associated with the Rising.
RTÉ, which brought the massive multi-faceted production together in association with the Ireland 2016 organisers, rounded off the day with a live broadcast from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre featuring a combination of theatre, dance, music and song both traditional and modern.
The lavish centenary show was written in 18 segments, each with a theme relating to the Rising and its aftermath up to the present day, and attracted performers such as traditional musicians Donal Lunny, Sharon Shannon, and John Sheahan, soprano Celine Byrne, and popular stars Imelda May, Jack Lukeman, Gavin James, and Danny O’Reilly.
The day’s formal ceremonies focused on synchronised wreath-layings at seven locations across Dublin which all played key roles in the events of Easter week 1916 and also in Cork City, Athenry, Co Galway; Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and Ashbourne, Co Meath.
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In Cork, thousands gathered to remember the hundreds of volunteers who mobilised under the command of Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney in an ambitious but doomed mission to support their comrades in Dublin.
Abroad, Irish soldiers on peacekeeping duty also staged their own commemorations. In the Golan Heights, the 50th Infantry Group held a small ceremony and reading of the Proclamation for the Quick Reaction Force personnel in between patrols.
In Lebanon, the 190 members of the 51st Infantry Group gathered for a ceremony at United Nations Post 2-45 near the town of Tiri in the south of the country.
Back home, the day was not without politics. Dublin’s lord mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh opened a day of reflection at the Mansion House on the living conditions of the citizens of 1916 with a call to remember the children of 2016 stuck in emergency accommodation, in substandard dwellings and on growing waiting lists for social housing.
At Moore St, Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys was heckled and booed as she laid a wreath at buildings which have been the focus of a protracted legal battle over their conservation status.
On O’Connell St, members of Republican Sinn Féin in paramilitary-style uniforms marched to the GPO and staged their own wreath laying and reading of the Proclamation, rejecting official commemorations as a betrayal of the united Ireland ideal of 1916.
President Michael D Higgins acknowledged the challenge of what he termed “ethical remembering”, saying commemoration needed to “include the voices of the marginalised and disenfranchised in our recollections” and “openness to the dissonant voices and stories of ‘the other’, the stranger, the enemy of yesterday”.
He also urged the public to keep faith with the principles of the Proclamation. “We have a duty to honour and respect that past, and retrieve the idealism which was at its heart,” he said.
And while the cordons were coming down on the weekend’s events and the streets were being reopened to traffic, he reminded the nation that this was just one occasion of remembering.
With the defining events of the War of Independence and the Civil War also to be recalled, the decade of commemoration is still to run its course.