Tag Archives: Century Ireland

Easter Rising, 1916-2016

As you know, the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising will be commemorated next year. 

There has always been a lively discussion in Ireland of the Rising itself.   The courage of the rebels and their willingness to die for their country was not in doubt.  Yet a question remains about the Rising’s utility, from a military perspective; an essentially guerrilla army, lightly armed, embedding itself in fixed positions around Dublin and waiting for the army of the world’s largest empire to come and get them. 

Yet it is clear that the Rebels knew exactly what they were doing in seizing Dublin.  It has to be remembered that Dublin was captured by the Anglo-Norman warlord Richard de Clare, aka Strongbow, in 1170.  In an act of fealty and self-preservation he quickly conferred it to Henry II.  The English crown’s hold on Dublin remained throughout the next seven hundred and fifty years, the city and Dublin Castle acting as the lynch-pin of its conquest and occupation of Ireland.  The 1916 rebels were the first to shake that hold.  They expected the symbolism of their act to resonate profoundly with the nationalist people of Ireland. 

The rebels were correct in their assessment of its impact.  Their Rising proved to be a seminal event in Irish history, sweeping aside the Irish Parliamentary Party with its genteel ambitions of home rule and igniting the final and successful push for independence.

The Department of Defence are compiling an official register of relatives of participants in the Easter Rising for the purpose of invitations to Ireland 2016 commemorative events, particularly the Easter Sunday parade (27th March 2016) and evening reception in Dublin Castle (a reception that has a weighty symbolism of its own!)

Registration forms and details of how to apply are available on the Department of Defence websitehttp://www.defence.ie/website.nsf/home+page?openform.  The closing date for registration is Wednesday 30thSeptember 2015.

If you are a relative of participants in the Rising, you may wish to apply to attend these important commemorative events.

Best wishes,


Eamonn McKee


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Century Ireland and the Recovery of Complexity

Ambassador’s Message – Century Ireland 1913-1923

10 May 2013

As you will have seen from previous messages recently concerning the Irish Korean War Memorial and veterans’ revisit, the overarching theme was the recovery of hitherto lost or ignored strands of Ireland’s national narrative, in this instance the tradition of Irish service in the British Army and the armies of other nations. 

This is part of a process: this week, for example, a Bill was passed by Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament) pardoning soldiers in the Irish Army who deserted to enlist with the Allied armies and fight in World War II.  As the Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter T.D., said, “It is estimated that over 60,000 citizens of the then Free State and in the region of 100,000 who resided on this Island fought against Nazi tyranny during the Second World War. For too long in this State we failed to acknowledge their courage and their sacrifice….”

Up to the Easter Rebellion in 1916, that narrative was a very complicated one.  It embraced many versions of Irish identity spanning the range from unionism and its identification with Britain, the British monarchy and the Empire to militant republicanism devoted to using armed force to gain Irish independence and establish a uniquely Irish state.  In between, individuals and organisations grappled with where they stood on the national question.  The main nationalist party, the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, supported Home Rule as did most nationalist opinion. The Rebellion led to the eclipse of Redmond and his Party and the emergence of Sinn Féin.

You can catch a flavour of these times, their complications and the stories making the headlines in May 1913, in a great new project called “Century Ireland”.  It is a collaborative effort by Boston College, RTÉ and a host of partners, including many of Ireland’s cultural institutes.  You can find Century Ireland here: http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland

The website is wonderful: visual, informative and fascinating.  Stories include haunting cases of infanticide, the struggles of the suffragettes, and the passage of the Home Rule Bill. 

One story reports on the announcement of a new telephone cable to be laid under the Irish Sea “to give Dublin a direct connection with the English telephone system for the first time.”  The report goes on “Up to now, anyone in Dublin who wishes to talk on the phone to someone in London, has to have the call passed through a series of connections from Dublin to Belfast, from there under the Irish Sea to either Glasgow or Carlisle, and then down through the length of Britain to London.”  Times have certainly changed.

The portal was inspired by the decade of centenaries of formative Irish historical events that we celebrate and commemorate between now and 2023.

As to why the Easter Rebellion replaced complexity with simplicity, that is a long story.  In summing it up, Yeats brought all of his powers to bear on the event.  “Easter 1916” is one of his finest works, visual and lapidary, penetrating and awestruck; “all changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.”

Have a great weekend,


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