TOWN RUNS ON 1916 TIME AS RISING COMMEMORATIONS HIT THEIR REVOLUTIONARY PEAK

6 May 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

PETER HUGHES

 Monaghan Town centre ran on 1916 time for most of Saturday last.

And, as the backward spinning clock hovered between the numerals of three and four, an intense figure in military brown stepped from the sandbag-banked bastion of the building that lives its normal life as Monaghan Courthouse and summoned the crowds milled about the forecourt to the august destiny to which they were being called in this supreme hour.

The living history actor embodying Padraig Pearse channelled a fullness of revolutionary fervour as he orated the words of the Proclamation across the suddenly stilled Church Square, watched intently by a flamboyantly moustached James Connolly and a wary phalanx of armed Volunteers, men and women whose eyes throughout the stunning re-enactment scanned the crowd intently for any stirrings of counter-revolutionary insurgency by infiltrating agents of the Crown.

The replication of the seminal GPO moment of the Easter Rising brought the official county commemorations of its centenary to a rousing revolutionary peak, the subsequent raising of the national flag by members of the Defence Forces coaxing a tear from many an eye as well as a rousing rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann from the collective throat.

After the rebels had withdrawn to the sanctuary of the Courthouse interior, and Emyvale’s Irish language poet Caitríona Ní Chléirchín had read her especially composed Echoes of 1916, the formalities of the day were concluded with addresses from prominent local authority figures and still-acting Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys.

Minister Humphreys thanked the people of the Cavan/Monaghan constituency whose electoral confidence in her had been the stepping stone to her gaining the portfolio which enabled her to preside over the official national commemoration of the Rising and be a key guiding hand for a year of major national and local events that had seen the country’s people “travelling on an incredible journey of discovery”. (The Minister also, winningly, expressed some words of gratitude for the protracted impasse in the formulation of a new Government that had enabled her to attend the official Co Monaghan centenary celebrations in what was still an official, if somewhat equivocated, Ministerial capacity).

She accorded a fullness of praise to the quality and diversity of the events taking place across the town that day, singling out the contribution made by Monaghan Co Museum and its staff led by Curator Liam Bradley, whose “From a Whisper to a Roar” exhibition she hailed as one of the finest commemorative events of its kind in the country.

The Minister’s wish for a legacy from Ireland’s collective act of remembering was that the country would stride into the future “confident of its history, proud of its identity and embracing of its diversity”.

But, as Co Council Cathaoirleach Noel Keelan reminded the Church Square crowds, there was still reflection to be done: “Let us as Irishmen and Irishwomen rededicate ourselves to the aspirations and ideals of the men and women who went out on Easter Week,” the Sinn Féin representative urged.

Fianna Fáil Co Councillor Pádraig McNally, who chaired the local authority steering committee that formulated the programme for the official county commemoration, hailed the efforts of the many local organisations and individuals who had made their own distinctive contribution to the collective recollection, with a devotion of time and effort that made the financial assistance the local authority had been able to give them small by comparison.

Co Council Chief Executive Eamonn O’Sullivan paid tribute to the hard work by all sections of the local authority that had ensured “this centenary year was remembered and celebrated in Co Monaghan with the respect it deserves”.

Away from the Courthouse focal point, the sense of time travel permeating the occasion was accentuated by opportunities for the public to savour the food, admire the fashion, enjoy the cinema and even meet some of the personalities of 1916.

And within the chameleon edifice itself, the room that customarily houses the sittings of the District Court was also chiming with the transformative nature of the day that was in it, becoming lecture hall for the evocations by historians George Knight and Professor Terence Dooley of the pre- and post-Rising turns and tides of Co Monaghan life, and intimate theatre for the powerful one-act play penned by Clones literary lion Eugene McCabe, “Pull Down a Horseman” which brought Pearse and Connolly together again in an intense dialogue that foreshadowed the triumphs and tragedies that …

1916

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