Belfast Telegraph

Why Dublin's fine Easter Rising parade can teach us the true meaning of inclusion

By Lindy McDowell

Arlene wasn't available and Mike seemingly had other things to do. So somebody had to go. In fairness I doubt very much if I was the only observer from a unionist background who went down at the weekend to view the Dublin commemoration of the 1916 Rising.

But I do wonder if the unionist parties didn't miss a trick by having some representative there. True, there's an election in the offing up here, so that was always going to make it tricky.

But if the Queen can do outreach. And do it so magnificently and heal wounds in the process...

As has been pointed out in many quarters the message loud and clear from Sunday's main event was that this was commemoration not celebration. An inclusive marking of the loss on all sides.

And with the surprisingly large scale show of state military might, it was also a pointed salute to real soldiers. Not masked paramilitaries.

Throughout Dublin there are various exhibitions to remember the events of that tumultuous week in 1916 and the people - all the people - who died as a result.

In St Stephen's Green, there were information boards describing where and how the action unfolded. I'm not sure what the '1916 Vegetable Patch' had to do with anything though...

As the parade commenced large screens carried footage of commemorative events happening simultaneously elsewhere in the city.

It was all very impressive and dignified. The march past of armed forces particularly so. The blue-capped ranks of UN soldiers and the placards referring to previous deployment in the Congo, the Lebanon and Chad, a reminder of the Irish Army's contribution in the wider world.

On the video screens a commentator was intoning the names of various flag carriers. At one point a Lieutenant Hugh Orde was mentioned. Surely not...?

The marching men and women were warmly applauded by the crowds. But touchingly as the parade ended and a straggle of young Garda officers who'd been on duty at the rear made their way along the street there was a sudden, spontaneous, hearty burst of applause for them, too. They smiled appreciatively. One poor fella looked mortified.

Down outside what was the old Parliament building the big screen coverage was as close as we could get to the main action on O'Connell Street.

Earlier I'd asked a hotel doorman the best way to get near O'Connell Street. "You can't get into O'Connell Street," he said. Then appraising me anew, he added: "Unless, of course, you're a dignitary." I wasn't a dignitary I assured him. "No," he agreed. "Few of us ever are."

The spectacular fly-past made the crowd cheer. The break in the big screen coverage, just as the band performing Danny Boy reached a crescendo, made them laugh.

The atmosphere was warm and - back to that word - dignified.

In all the speeches, in all the gestures there was obvious effort to be inclusive. Up here on both sides, we tend to translate "inclusive" as being all about us. But the 1916 blood-letting left in its wake division that still lingers in the Republic, too.

One restaurateur told me he was against the commemoration because as a "constitutional nationalist" he could not ever forgive the violence of the Rising. Also, he believed it had copper-fastened Partition. The difficult complexity of the past is not confined to our side of the border.

Nor is (and this always amuses me) corporate ingenuity at cashing in on national events - occasionally with more enthusiasm than good taste.

An old ledger in the window of a jewellers which had opened just three weeks before that Easter 1916 showed records of the shop closed as the fighting raged. A fancy dress shop offered 1916 regalia, including for women, the 'Countess'.

Meanwhile, the Ann Summers shop window had a bra in emerald green...

A rising of sorts I suppose.

Clarkson hits below belt with latest jibe

According to Jeremy Clarkson (remember him): “The only people who turn up to watch women’s boxing are the immediate families of those taking part. And a few sexual deviants.”

He also says sports women shouldn’t be paid the same as sports men.

Should we be outraged and kick up a fuss? Nah. Jeremy has to keep himself in the news as he awaits the return of his new TV car show.

He is a master at headline hogging.

Expect more of the same from here on in.

Obama barracked by feisty Fidel

Oh dear. Not everyone has been impressed by US president Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba. Awkwardly enough this includes former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

In a long-winded letter to state media he even accuses Obama of speaking “syrupy” words of reconciliation which could give Cubans a heart attack.

The 89-year-old Fidel, whose brother Raul now runs the show in Cuba, also suggests Mr Obama should keep his nose out of Cuban politics. Not a great one for Hand of History moments then, Fidel.

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