DUBLIN – Easter Monday 1916 was a sunny day. Patrick Pearse, a young poet and teacher, stood in front of the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in Dublin and, to the astonishment of passers-by, began to read: “Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
Around the city, copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic were posted on buildings, declaring Ireland a sovereign state, guaranteeing fundamental rights and declaring a provisional government, pending elections by all the people, men and women.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, as it was known. The six-day insurrection by Irish rebels against British rule has divided Ireland for a century; some see the rebels as martyrs, others as leaders of a treacherous revolt.
“What happened developed out of a huge ferment that included the Gaelic language revival, the explosion of what’s sometimes called Anglo-Irish literature, along with both a strong nationalist party under (John) Redmond and, of course, a secret wing, the Irish Republican Brotherhood that wanted independence by violence,” said Irish Father Brendan Purcell, adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
“Many of the 1916 leaders were personally devout Catholics — maybe (nationalist leader) Joseph Plunkett was a mystic too, so they linked their insurrection to Easter as if it were a religious event, too.”
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