16 April 2006

Thousands mark Easter Rising anniversary


16/04/2006 - 13:36:47

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTens of thousands of spectators lined the streets of Dublin toay as Ireland marked the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

In the first commemorative military display in memory of the heroes of 1916, 2,500 Defence Forces personnel marched through the capital.

President Mary McAleese joined Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the front of the GPO on O’Connell Street, the spot where the bloody rebellion began.

The Tricolour above the iconic building was lowered to half mast as Captain Tom Ryan, of the sixth Infantry Battalion, re-enacted the reading of the Proclamation of the Republic.

President McAleese inspected a guard of honour before laying a wreath in memory of those who fought and died for Irish freedom in 1916.

Throngs of crowds looked on in silence from every available vantage point as politicians, dignitaries and relatives of the 1916 rebels stood for a minute’s silence.

British ambassador Stewart Eldon was among the invited guests who watched from viewing platforms facing the GPO as the last post was sounded and the national flag was returned to full mast.

And in a fitting tribute to the revolutionaries, spectators joined in a rendition of Amhran na bhFiann, the national anthem.

A military parade led by the army band wound its way through the crowded city streets as the Air Core and Garda air support units flew overhead.

The largest-ever military display witnessed in Ireland included Defence Forces and Irish Navy personnel in full military uniform with the latest equipment and vehicles.

The Army Equitation School, Defence Forces Medical Corps, an Garda Siochana, UN veterans and ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen also joined the procession.

Onlookers standing behind crash barriers saw giant Armoured Personnel Carriers, 1.75-tonne artillery guns, Explosive Ordnance Disposal armoured vehicles, an Aardvark mine sweeper and several MOWAG tanks in the parade.

Also included were vintage artillery guns, which were issued to the Defence Forces in 1949 and are currently used in the presidential 21-gun salute.

Over half a dozen Army bands provided the music.

An Irish Air Corps fly-over of light military aircraft and the Government Lear Jet drew loud applause and cheers.

The Defence Forces personnel were drawn from several barracks around the country.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent, who sat in the viewing stand with government and opposition members, hailed the parade as a symbol of a modern Ireland.

“Ireland’s proud service in United Nations’ peacekeeping missions is a modern example of the self-sacrifice espoused by the 1916 leaders,” he said.

However, he added that the executed rebels would be horrified to see how the Irish language is being marginalised within society today.

“The idealism of the 1916 leaders was as much to do with Ireland’s integrity and identity as well as its independence,” he explained.

FormerTaoiseach Albert Reynolds congratulated the organisers of the event which he said was very important for the defence forces and the general public.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us“It was high time that we had a parade like this. Too much time had elapsed. It was fantastic for the defence forces and the public and I hope that it continues on an annual basis,” he said.

Dublin's Rising celebration in 1966

Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte, said: “It was a splendid opportunity for the defence forces, the Navy and the Air Corps to put their capabilities on display.

“It will take more time to consider the wider implications of today’s event, as we drift towards the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising in 10 years,” he said.

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