- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2006

DUBLIN — A large military parade marched through Dublin yesterday in memory of the Easter Rising 90 years ago, an event that began Ireland’s struggle for independence but continues to stir debate today.

Every major political party in Ireland claims descendents from the event, in which the Irish Revolutionary Brigade took up strategic positions in the center of Dublin, and Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. But critics speak of an “evil legacy” and say the men and women of the 1916 Easter Rising would be seen as terrorists today.

The parade included a flyover by the Irish Air Corps and special seating for 1,500 descendents of those who died in 1916. Commemorative stamps have been issued, and Stewart Eldon, Britain’s ambassador to Ireland, attended the ceremonies.

But this only has made critics of the commemorations even more adamant.

“If the Irish want to celebrate the Easter Rising they may, but they must realize that they are in no moral position whatsoever to condemn any other violent insurrection,” British commentator Geoffrey Wheatcroft said last week.

On the other side, veteran Irish politician Ollie Wilkinson, a member of the Irish parliament, maintains the importance of the Easter Rising.

“From the rising came the freedom we have today. … These men had a cause — this country was occupied — and we can see in Northern Ireland, where the British remain, that there’s still trouble. We don’t need to look outside Ireland to see the trouble caused when one country occupies another.”

The recent gruesome death of ex-Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson exacerbated feelings ahead of yesterday’s ceremony.

Mr. Donaldson had confessed in December to being a British spy and had gone into hiding, although the Irish Republican Army had said he would not be harmed. Earlier this month, his body was found in a cottage in Donegal, mutilated by shotgun wounds.

The death was condemned from all sides of Irish politics, with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams saying the killing came “from a bygone era.”

But Mr. Wheatcroft linked the killing to the glorification of the Easter Rising, saying, “Only in Ireland could anyone fail to see the connection between the two.”

Mr. Wilkinson refused to accept that logic.

“The peace process in this country … cannot be derailed, because it’s the only way forward,” he said. “We celebrate the Easter Rising with a military parade because the Rising itself was a military event. But the commemoration will not affect the peace process, nor will anything else.”

By the time the British army had defeated the Irish rebels in 1916, the center of Dublin had been destroyed by artillery fire. Those who had signed the proclamation were executed promptly, and the mood of Ireland began to change.

Irish poet W.B. Yeats’ poem “Easter 1916” written at the time, still captures the heroic yet strangely ambiguous events. “Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn, Are changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

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