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19 April, 2016

The Rebirth of a Nation

Roddy Evans
Over Easter weekend 2016, a million citizens participated in and witnessed a rebirth of their nation. What follows is the story of how this extraordinary event came to pass. In 1966 Dublin celebrated, in triumph, the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The Rebellion had been led by a group of poets, teachers and trade unionists. It had laid waste to the Capital city and in so doing propelled a nation towards a loosening of the bonds of colonial rule.

However, the triumphalism of that celebration in 1966 was one factor in unleashing civil war in Northern Ireland, the divided part of the island.

The beginning of that civil war caught the governments in London and Dublin totally unprepared. London sent in the army to assist the forces of law and order, but were oblivious of the underlying political and constitutional causes of the conflict.

Dublin, acutely aware that the conflagration could engulf the whole island, decided to bury all references to 1916, where it remained buried ‘in a deep grave’ for 50 years. A new generation of citizens grew up without any knowledge of how their nation was born.

Speaking to his party, Fianna Fail, in 2006, Bertie Ahern promised that there would be a parade in Dublin in 2016 to mark the centenary of 1916. The ‘genie was out of the bottle’ and nothing on God’s earth was capable of getting it back in! Whoever held the reins of government at Easter 2016 would be obliged to hold a parade and 1916 would ‘rise from its grave’.

In the event, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday were glorious days when, in lovely sunshine, vast crowds took over Dublin and the country, as they claimed their country once again. Writing in The Irish Independent on 29 March, Martina Devlin, begins:

‘Impulsively, joyously, a current of elation has taken hold of Dublin’ and she continues, ‘But yesterday was no day for reservations, doubt or ambiguities, and the people streamed onto the streets to express their pride in Ireland’s journey towards self-determination. Pride, yes. It was fascinating - a relief, even - to feel an emotion so positive after the bleak years of financial collapse.’

It was, visually, before the eyes of millions, the resurrection of a Nation.

Dr Roddy Evans – Belfast 2016

James Roderick Evans was born in Co. Meath, Ireland in 1923. He graduated in medicine from Trinity College Dublin and became a FRCSI in 1947. He practised in Dublin and London, and later travelled widely, including Asia and Latin America, the Middle East and Southern Africa. From 1971 he has lived in Belfast, where he has experienced at first hand the historic developments in Northern Ireland in the 45 years since then. He was visiting his sister in Co. Meath over the Easter weekend 2016 when he witnessed the events he describes here.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

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