(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)
On Sunday participants in a 1916 Rising Commemoration organised by the Irish organisation Anti-Imperialist Action were harassed by police as they gathered to march to the Irish Citizen Army Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Six political police in plain clothes walked among those gathered beside Phibsborough shops demanding names and addresses of the participants, most of whom were fairly young. Four uniformed Gardaí also stood nearby and a Public Order Unit van parked at the cemetery entrance.
The participants declined to be intimidated and set off on their march, led by a lone piper playing Irish marching airs, followed by a colour party with different banners interspersed among the marchers, among which fluttered many flags.
Organisers had learned that the coach carrying members of the Republican Flute Band from Scotland that was to lead the parade had been prevented by police there from taking the ferry to Ireland.
In 1916 a broad alliance the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, na Fianna Éireann and Hibernian Rifles1 took part in a Rising organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood against British rule in Ireland and against world war.
Due to a number of unfortunate circumstances, the leader of the Volunteers cancelled the Rising which however went ahead a day later than planned and was for the most part confined to Dublin, where a third of the numbers in the original plan took part and fought for a week.
The occupying British Army shelled the city centre from a gunship in the river Liffey and also from artillery on land. Explosions and resulting fires destroyed much of the city centre including the General Post Office in the main street, which had been the headquarters of the insurrection.2
After a week with the city centre including the GPO in flames, the rebel garrison evacuated to Moore Street where the following day, surrounded and vastly outnumbered, the decision was taken to surrender.3 A British military court passed death sentences on nearly a hundred prisoners.
All but fifteen of those sentences were commuted to long jail periods but the seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation4 and another seven were shot by British firing squad in Dublin, a fifteenth in Cork and after trial months later a sixteenth was hanged in Pentonville Jail, London.
At Easter 1917 Irish Republican and Socialist women commemorated the 1916 Rising; ever since then Irish Republicans and sometimes Socialists in Ireland and in many parts of the diaspora have commemorated the Rising, whether legally5 or otherwise, in jail or at liberty.
The War of Independence began in 1919 with many of the Rising’s survivors participating6.
The Parade on Sunday – local and national historical memory marked
At Cross Guns Bridge over the Royal Canal the parade halted and flares were lit in memory of events there in 1916.
On Easter Monday 1916 a small group of Irish Volunteers had marched from Maynooth along the canal bank to join the Rising in Dublin and found guarding the bridge two Irish Volunteers who advised them to wait until the following day to go into the city centre.
The Maynooth group spent the night in Glasnevin and the following day marched into the GPO, passing an empty Cross Guns Bridge on the way. Back towards Phibsborough, British artillery had blown a barricade and killed Seán Healy, a Fianna member at the Nth. Circular Road crossroads.
Later, the Dublin Fusiliers unit of the British Army blockaded the bridge, preventing people from crossing it in either direction. They shot dead a deaf local man who failed to heed their challenge because he did not hear it.
We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland declared one banner carried last Sunday, Britain/NATO Out of Ireland another, This Is Our Mandate7, Our Republic and Collusion Is No Illusion, It Is State-Sponsored Murder were another two.
A large banner also declared alongside the image of James Connolly that Only Socialism Can Be the Solution for Ireland. Some organisations also carried their own banners, such as those of Dublin Independent Republicans, Ireland Anti-Internment Campaign and Irish Socialist Republicans.
Flags fluttering included those bearing the logo of the organising group Anti-Imperialist Action and others bearing the slogan “Always Anti-Fascist”, green-and-gold Starry Ploughs, a couple of Ikurrinak (Basque flags) and another two of Red with Hammer & Sickle in yellow.
At the Monument: speeches and songs
Glasnevin Cemetery (Reilig Ghlas Naíonn) covers over 120 acres in North Dublin city and is in two parts, each with Republican Plots separated by the Cabra Road and contains the graves of both famous and ordinary people.
On the north side there is also access to the Botanic Gardens, both on the south banks of the Tolka river. The imposing Monument to numerous Republican uprisings and the Irish Citizen Army Republican plot is on the south side, across the pedestrian bridge over the railway line.
A man chaired the event for Anti-Imperialist Action and spoke briefly, introducing people for readings (all of which were from James Connolly) and for orations. The presentations of these were evenly divided between men and women, three of those being of young people.
Three songs were sung: a woman sang The Foggy Dew (by Charles O’Neill) and Erin Go Bragh (by Peadar Kearney), while a man sang Patrick Galvin’s Where Is Our James Connolly? Two women read out pieces by James Connolly and another read out the 1916 Proclamation.
The words of the chairperson and of those giving orations were different but there were common themes: upholding the historic Irish spirit of resistance, the importance of the working class in history and the objective of a socialist Republic encompassing the whole of the Irish nation.
These words were balanced by denunciation of US and British imperialism and the colonial/ NATO occupation of the Six Counties by the latter; the Irish client regime; the special no-jury courts8 of both administrations in Ireland and repression by police forces and occupation army.
Also denounced were those political parties that had abandoned the struggle for the Republic and instead had become part of the colonial and neo-colonial administrations or, in the latter case, were on their way to becoming so.9
Floral tributes were laid by representatives of a number of announced organisations and then others came forward to lay floral tributes also. The colour party lowered flags for a minute’s silence in homage and salute before slowly raising them again and the piper played Amhrán na bhFiann.
The chairperson thanked all for attendance, listing organisations by name and cautioning all to stay close together as they left, due to the threatening presence of Gardaí and in particular the Public Order Unit. In the event, the celebrants exited the cemetery and dispersed without incident.
1A small unit, an armed wing of a split from the more socially conservative USA version of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, their participation in the Rising was notable.
2Photos of much of the destruction are available on the Internet and accessible by search browser.
3The terrace they occupied still stands and is the object of a historical memory and conservation struggle against property speculator plans approved by the municipal city managers and Government political parties (see smsfd.ie).
4A remarkable document, the text of which is available from many postings on the Internet.
5Irish women commemorated it in public in contravention of British WWI martial legislation in 1917 and 1918 and for decades the public commemoration of the 1916 Rising (and even the flying of the Irish Tricolour) was forbidden in the British colony of the Six Counties with attendant colonial police attacks on any attempt to do so.
6Sometimes inaccurately called “the Tan War” (reference to a special colonial police auxiliary force that became known as the “Black n’ Tans”), the war saw the birth of the IRA and lasted from 1919-1921. A British “peace” proposal opened deep divisions in the nationalist coalition and was followed by a Civil War 1922-1923, in which the pro-Treaty government and armed forces were armed and supplied by the British to defeat the Republicans in a campaign of repression and jailing, military actions, kidnapping and torture, murder of prisoners, assassinations and over 80 formal executions.
7Also displaying text referring to the First Dáil’s Democratic Program of 1919.
8The Diplock court in the colony and the Special Criminal Courts in the Irish State, political special courts in all but name, with low proof bar and abnormally high conviction rate and refusal of bail while awaiting trial.
9References to 1) the 1930s split from the Sinn Féin party, the Fianna Fáil political party that became a preferred Government party of the foreign-dependent Irish ruling bourgeoisie and 2) to the Provisional Sinn Féin party who endorsed the British pacification plan in 1998 and embarked on the road to becoming a party of reformist nationalism in the colony and is heading for neo-colonial (and neo liberal capitalist) coalition government at the moment.