Four years ago I sat in the late morning sunshine with a cup of tea in hand, warm and safe, and I listened to the cracking sounds of gunfire not three fields away.
The pops and clicks of ancient pistols and far away voices were faint, but they shook me in a way I hadn’t expected.
I hadn’t been lucky enough to win a ticket to the 1916 Rising re-enactment down the road in Ashbourne. I’d been disappointed, but then I recalled, that the vast majority of Ireland was surprised on the day independence was declared miles away outside the General Post Office in Dublin and few places outside of Dublin’s borders rose in the days that followed.
Ashbourne was one of the exceptions. It’s a fact that makes me proud of my little country village every day.
And so, rather than witnessing the re-enactment itself, I chose to play the part of the startled local wondering what the hell was going on over there.
And every 24th of April since, I think about that moment and the gravity of it. The historical weight fell on my shoulders like a rain-sodden cloak and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sob into my tea as the ghosts of the past breezed through me.
The Easter Rising of 1916 certainly wasn’t the first time Irish men and Irish women had made a strike for freedom, but it was the first in the modern age. It’s the first Irish Rising we have photos of. It’s the first where news papers and Pathé footage existed. It’s the first where people dressed in recognisable clothes using recognisable accents and modern language proclaimed their right to self govern.
It was the first step in the modern fight for freedom that eventually resulted in the 26 county Republic we have today and all the murky difficulties and historical complications that come with it.
It’s a lot to take in. The bravery those men and women had, and the responsibility they took on to dream of an Ireland they absolutely knew they’d not see.
So, every year now, I sit in my garden with a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine, I remember those gunshots across the fields and what they represent, and I dream of the Ireland I want to see; one that fulfils the Proclamation’s claim that Ireland should “…guarantee religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, … to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, oblivious of their differences…”
It’s a big dream to be sure.
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