- Published in Toward Freedom, April 2016
- Written by Ramor Ryan
Dublin was in lockdown on March 27th as the Easter Sunday State Commemoration was held to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Surrounded by an extensive ring of steel, 5,000 state dignitaries and invited VIPs witnessed an extravagant ceremony in front of the historic site of the General Post Office--The GPO—ground zero of the insurrection one hundred years ago.
Beyond the closed-off main thoroughfares, thousands of onlookers –predominantly tourists-- strained to catch a glimpse of the activities. If watching a small country’s drab army and fire brigade march by is your thing, you would have loved this. Spectator numbers fell dramatically short of the organizers expected 250,000.
On a crowded side street, away the official events and television cameras, The Homeless Families of Ireland organization held a protest, raising a voice in particular for the 1,800 homeless children in the state. Invoking the Proclamation read by the rebels on the steps of the GPO in 1916, the homeless spokeswoman appealed for “all the children to be cherished equally.”
“On this day, we ask that we not only celebrate the rebels with flowers and speeches, but we commit ourselves to achieving their vision of creating a Republic of equals, by solving the homeless crisis which shames our nation today.”
Reflecting the disparity within an increasingly two-tiered society, the two concurrent events were a stark reminder of the growing divide within the affluent Irish state between the haves and the have-nots.
The first act was to change the date of the anniversary. Why commemorate the Rising on March 27th, almost a month before the actual anniversary of April 24th?
Journalist Gene Kerrigan commented, “Why not hold it on the anniversary? Well, due to the lunar and solar cycles and a formula initiated by the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, this year Easter is within 10 days of St Patrick's Day. This created an accumulation of tourism potential, between March 17 and March 27, that the Government couldn't resist…So, yet again fumbling in the greasy till, it's brought the gig forward by a month, to boost the hotel and catering trade. We're celebrating the 99 years and 11 months anniversary of the Rising.”
Another Easter Rising
Yeats’ mesmerizing words have long been employed in the service of official Ireland, and his Easter 1916 poem has been rolled out ubiquitously this month - All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.
But change has come too slowly since 1916 and the aspirations of the 1916 generation remain so; most of all for the sizable portion of the population that is excluded from the wealth of the nation: The homeless, the marginalized, those forced to emigrate, the 138,000 children living in poverty.
On a side street in Dublin, the homeless are protesting the rising shame of Ireland’s growing inequality. These are the excluded, those from below. Official Ireland has no place for them.
For them, another of Yeats’ famous lines serves better – perhaps it is time once more to “hurl the little streets upon the great”.