“Proclamayssion two yuuroos! Proclamyssion only two yurooos!”
The proclamations are mostly in the plastic bag, but a few are held up to passers by. Outside the G.P.O., under the narrow pin of the Spire, on the wide, fast food epicentre of O’Connell Street, all manner of 1916 goodies are hawked, for the day that’s in it. 100 years ago today, on the twenty-fourth of April, 1916, a band of rebels ‘stormed’ the G.P.O. and other landmark Dublin City centre buildings in an attempt to kick off a national uprising against the British crown. The Empire was busy with that stark abominable war in Europe. Thousands of Irishmen were fighting there, fighting and dying in places like the Somme, where up to one million men were killed or wounded. Meanwhile in Ireland, in a period of cultural revival and a new sense of nationalism through everything from poetry to Gaelic sports, a physical uprising is plotted in secret.
It means many things to many people. As the joke goes, if you believe everyone who tells you they had a great-grandfather in the G.P.O. with one of them clunky rifles that the ‘gallant’ Germans dropped off in Howth, then about half the country must have been crammed inside. Instead, on the day, a ragtag group showed up, and were jeered by a bemused public and later, they were given the hashtags of heroism though the whole thing is still open to healthy debate.
Flags, flags, get yer Ireland flags!
Just before noon on that Easter Monday, Patrick Pearse read out the proclamation from the front of the G.P.O.
The proclamation was signed by seven men, all of whom would be executed (along with others) in the immediate aftermath for their roles. The executions themselves are commonly regarded as a turning point between a controversial insurrection and a national push towards independence.
- Thomas Joseph Clarke: a 58 year old tobacconist who was jailed for 15 years for trying to blow up London Bridge. He was born in England but grew up in county Tyrone
- Seán Mac Diarmada: a 33 year old Leitrim man with a disability caused by polio, and a close friend of Clarke.
- Thomas MacDonagh: a 38 year old poet, playwright, teacher, and teachers trade union founder from country Tipperary
- Patrick Henry Pearse: 36 year old poet, writer, orator, teacher, barrister, and activist born on the street now named after him in Dublin city
- Éamonn Ceannt: 34 years old, an accountant son of an RIC officer, from county Galway
- James Connolly: 47 years old, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Marxist theorist and socialist leader, esperanto speaker
- Joseph Plunkett: 28 years old, poet, journalist, suffered with TB for much of his life, close friends with MacDonagh
A stage has been set up on the wide central strip where Dublin’s protests tend to start or end, and a speaker is already going #fullgas.
“in exasperation no doubt, once remarked, ‘Dubliners are the best and most unmanageable of revolutionaries’. And he devised that notorious 1937 constitution, which ensured that Irish women would be denied access to much of public life, and who…”
In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.
On the way into the centre, a march, probably unofficial, is starting under the train bridge that cuts across Ballybough Road. A Dublin bus is trying to pull in to pick up and put down its passengers, and a couple of Gardaí on bikes wait along with the compulsory group of bystanders-with-camera phones that have gathered.
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.
In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.
Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.
In 1916, O’Connell street shops were looted before being blown to pieces later in the week by field guns or burned in the fires that ensued. Some of the poorest people in Europe went into the luxury shops, taking furs, sweets, shoes…. A toy shop’s contents of fireworks were let loose on the street. Characters walked around decked in trendy furs wielding golf clubs. And both sides shot at them. Towards the end of the week after thousands of British soldiers surrounded the rebels, business owners staying put to protect their livelihoods were randomly executed along with some of their boys. Technically, at the time, they were British citizens, as were the rebels themselves, and Dublin was the empire’s ‘second’ city (#disputed).
In the distance, the bulk of Croke Park stands over the low terraces of the North Inner City. The GAA has organized a big hullaballoo of dance and music called Laochra, to take place after the National football league final between Kerry and Dublin. A couple of hundred metres away, a man was murdered in a recent gangland killing, while in one day’s time, in a few hundred metres in the other direction, another man will be shot dead in a pub.
Just off O’Connell street, there’s no traffic and no Luas running on Abbey Street Middle, but care is still needed to keep the narrow bike wheels out of the Luas track grooves, and dodge the green-clad people heading towards the din. A bigger more official march will take place later on. The Luas drivers may or may not be on strike today, for a pay rise many deem to be verging on greed, or part of some trade union meltdown. Although the economy seems to be on the up, the real wage for most people is not budging, while many are caught in short term contracts, on the wrong side of some two-tier pay system or other, or in a scheme like the infamous JobsBridge, supposedly to get realworld skills but possibly just working for almost nothing. Meanwhile many groups of public workers like the gardaí, nurses, train drivers, and teachers, are looking to recoup losses from recessionary budgets.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.
Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.
Across from the Four Courts, traffic streams up the Quays. In the River Liffey, a couple of boats are going up as well, negotiating under the many bridge arches in the brightening day. A hundred years ago, Ned Daly’s 1st Battalion took over the building; some of the most intense fighting took place in the area. The Four Courts building survived the rising intact hurrah! but was blown to bits in the civil war in 1922 boo! before being rebuilt again hurrah!
Further South and East, another group of officials and photographers is building outside the Dublin Castle complex. A line of Gardaí stands outside in luminous jackets. One of them shouts my surname. He used to live with my brother. We chat for a few minutes about the wreath laying ceremony that will take place at the gates, and the general low-key events taking place (the official celebrations were held over the Easter weekend), and where the president Micky D, might be. An amphibious yellow Viking tourist truck goes past, with the passengers letting out a big choreographed roar that the locals are tuned to ignore. I don’t go into the castle grounds. The rebels didn’t go in either, even though the place was left pretty much unguarded, and it was one of the key buildings and the main admin centre for the British government in Ireland.
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Down Dame street, a mass of teenagers in black and carefully torn indie anticulture culture mill around the central bank building with skateboards, and College Green is lined with barriers and railings where the new Luas lines are going down. Whatever about the other lines, these curving tracks that will run along by the front of Trinity college will be an interesting obstacle for bikes. That’s the thing about getting stuck in ruts; there’s a good chance you’ll fall trying to get out.
A few streets down from Grafton Street, more Gardaí are outside Leinster House on Kildare Street, where the Government would sit if there was an actual Government. But the parties and TDs are locked in a strategic limbo, with no party having the required majority following a fractious Spring election campaign, and seemingly unable to agree to disagree, unable to step above dead end party lines, caught in “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, surrounded by so-called emerging ‘populism’ in the traditional ‘best of a bad lot’ politics. Not many commentators hold out much hope for a durable compromise. Flashpoint issues such as the Irish water saga have created huge points of friction. Shut it down, and it’ll cost a load of money. Keep it open, and it’ll cost a load of money. Are those who paid now seeing themselves solidified as ‘winners’ and those who obliged with the extra tax, ‘losers’? Careful now, or another swell of anger from the taxpayers and naysayers will be set in motion.
Outside The Shelbourne Hotel, a bagpiper is playing, and a man in a green military uniform from a bygone era is walking down the steps. More camera phones, and a very tall footman in grey with top hat rounds the taxi rank to greet an arriving BMW 6 series.
Across the road, Edward Delaney’s bronze statue of Theoblad Wolfe Tone marks the North East corner of St Stephen’s Green. Inside the park, tulips are in full bloom and ducks, gulls, swans, and pigeons vie for donated grub while above in the trees that are beginning to leaf, a chorus of blackbirds and robins mark their spots and strut their stuff. Selfie sticks and baby carts wander around in the cool morning. While Stephen’s Green was taken over in the Rising, it was in a vulnerable position, as British soldiers could occupy comfortable high buildings like the Sehelbourne and cover the open area.
Further Southeast again, until the Grand Canal appears, and then down past the bridges and locks until Mount Street Bridge. A jogger is stretching against the lock gates. Faded flowers lie against the monument, tucked away from the pavement and busy commuter road. Office buildings stand in a corporate unison over a tour group. This was the scene of one of the bloodiest Rising battles, where a regiment of British soldiers, the Sherwood Foresters, marching from Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) were attacked by volunteers embedded in houses near the bridge. Rather than back up, move one street up, and take another bridge, the troops were ordered again and again into the bullets.
The canal continues down towards the Liffey and the sea. A battered old building stands above the tidy marina at the Grand Canal Docks. Boland’s Mill. Eamonn De Velera was stationed here in 1916 but not a whole lot happened as it was an isolated outpost. .It will soon be knocked, renamed as Boland Quay, and have €150 million of digital-dockland-era money into a brand new trendy living space. #gentrification
Whole Liffey-side sections of the city are changed utterly and still changing: development billboards with utopic designs run down both sides of the river as it edges to the sea. A few remaining old buildings look lonely amid the development. A lone canvas currach is being rowed up under the Samuel Beckett bridge.
Farther north again, the crowds are building for the match. Dublin will steamroll to another league win, and the Laochra show will fill the RTE schedule for a few Sunday afternoon hours. Later on they’ll have to fill out the census forms that have been sent out to every address in the country. Under another train bridge, a huge poster for the latest Game of Thrones TV show series is hung next to a dark poster that seems to have an orange on black likeness of Jesus with the words “EQUALITY FOR IRISH MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN; KEEP
REPEAL THE 8TH”
All photos taken on an iPhone 6. I cycled from location to location in a short space of time to try and get a snapshot feel to the areas.