Ireland marks centenary of 1916 Easter uprising that led to independence

The Proclamation of the Republic is read out aloud during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland on March 27, 2016.
The Proclamation of the Republic is read out aloud during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland on March 27, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBLIN (REUTERS) - Thousands of members of Ireland's armed forces marched through Dublin on Sunday (March 27) to mark 100 years since the Easter 1916 uprising launched the country on the road to independence from Britain five years later.

The rebellion has been described as a "triumph of failure" because, while the rebels surrendered and were executed after five days, their uprising galvanised the independence movement, hastening the end of hundreds of years of British rule.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny oversaw the commemorations in an acting capacity after his coalition government failed to secure re-election on Feb 26, creating a political stalemate that has shown little sign of resolution.

"From the ashes of the Rising, the subsequent War of Independence, and Civil War arose a free and democratic Irish State," Mr Kenny said at a ceremony on Friday.

On Sunday morning, Mr Kenny watched as the Irish flag was raised at the site where the leaders of the rebellion were shot dead.

The rising remains controversial for some who criticise the commemorations for celebrating Irish militant nationalism.

First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster refused to take part in commemorations, saying the Rising was used to justify Irish Republican Army violence in the 1970s and 80s.

While the IRA disbanded after a 1998 peace deal, police in Belfast have warned of a "severe" threat during the commemorations to security forces by dissident nationalist militants opposed to continued British rule in Northern Ireland.

Tens of thousands lined streets on a bright Sunday morning in Dublin to watch the parade snake past strategic buildings seized by poorly trained insurgents in their audacious attack on the British administration in the middle of World War I.

The rebels' Proclamation of Independence was due to be read at midday at their headquarters, the General Post Office. The rebels surrendered near the building under heavy British shelling after five days.

Mr Kenny's Fine Gael party was criticised by rivals for what they said is a cautious embrace of the rebels' legacy after a video to commemorate the Rising featured rugby players and the British Queen but none of the insurgents.

A banner on a building in the centre of Dublin featuring the face of John Redmond, a bitter opponent of the rising, was defaced in recent days. Redmond has been praised by Mr John Bruton, a former head of the Fine Gael party as offering a constitutional alternative to the violence of 1916.

Left-wing parties have also used the commemorations to highlight the failure to implement the rising's egalitarian ideals.

"This state is not the Republic proclaimed in 1916 and current efforts to pretend that it is are an insult to the men who lie here," said Mr Gerry Adams, leader of the country's third largest party Sinn Fein, at a rival commemoration event on Friday at the grave of some of the rebels.