By Chinedu Onyejelem
Thousands participated in activities throughout Dublin to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.
Events that will continue till the 100th anniversary of the Rising on 24 April will see “respectfully remember all of those who lost their lives, those who took brave and fateful decisions and those who simply got caught up in the conflict,” according to Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys.
Speaking ahead of the first official commemorative ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance, Minister Humphreys said the 1916 Rising “was the seminal moment in our history, which set Ireland on the path to independence.”
One of the highlights of events thus far was the Centenary Parade in Dublin city centre on Easter Sunday afternoon, involving 4,000 members of the Defence Forces.
President Higgins began the day by laying a wreath at Kilmainham Gaol, where 14 of the 16 Rising leaders were killed by firing squad.
Later at the GPO, the centre of the rebellion, the President also led a wreath and held a minute’s silence for all the dead, before children laid flowers, a military band performed ‘Danny Boy; and army officer Capt Peter Kelleher read out the Proclamation of the Republic as Pádraig Pearse had done almost 100 years before.
Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was “important that we bear witness this centenary year to all those who gave their lives during Easter 1916.”
Some 500 people died, including more than 60 rebels, died during the failed rebellion that eventually stokes support for the later War of Independence from British rule.
In addition, the commemoration recognised the 250 civilians and 130 British armed forces who died, as well as the more than 2,500 who were injured during the fighting.
An event was also held in Belfast to mark the Easter Rising. Addressing participants, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “A united Ireland means the unity of the people of this island, including those who see themselves as British. That is why Irish Governments must pursue every avenue to promote all-Ireland co-operation and to build relationships between all our people.
“This must include genuine efforts to outreach to the unionists on the basis of equality. There was never a better time to plan and deliver on an all-Ireland basis.”