Easter wears several bonnets. It’s a time of reflection for many people and for many reasons. Some “give up” something while others meditate on the past in anticipation of rebirth. As the creator of Ogham Art, I think about Ireland...a lot. During this time of year, my thoughts manifest images of the Easter Rising, Irish freedom and the fight to preserve Ireland’s Celtic identity.
My commitment to the celebration of Irish history is what inspires me daily at Ogham Art. While I spend most of my time artistically presenting Ogham and Celtic imagery, I am always connected to the resilience of the Irish people in their demand for freedom – political and cultural. A traditionally religious country often choosing the holiest of weeks to pursue this freedom also affects me. Part of me thinks of how daunting it must have been to take action during a time so sacred to their spiritual foundation.
On Easter Monday, 1916, a rebellion began on the steps of the General Post Office with a proclamation read by Pádraig Pearse, a teacher, barrister, poet and nationalist. “In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.” Lasting only six days, the Easter Rising resulted in thousands injured, nearly 500 dead and the city of Dublin in ruins. The British response of executing 15 men within two weeks (including the 7 men who signed the Proclamation) created a momentum – a “terrible beauty” as William Butler Yeats called it - that would eventually and finally lead to a free Ireland. (April 24, 1916)
On Easter Monday, 1949, the Republic of Ireland Act of 1948 went into effect. Twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State were declared an Irish Republic and no longer a dominion of the British Empire. The other 6 counties remained partitioned as Northern Ireland under British rule. Despite this change, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland enacted in 1937 continued to claim the island of Ireland as one territory. From the 1960s through the 1990s, the clashing of nationalists/republicans (those who identified as Irish and/or desired a unified Ireland) and loyalists/unionists (those who willingly accepted British rule) became a period known as The Troubles. (April 18, 1949)
On Good Friday, 1998, the Irish and British governments acknowledged both the separateness and togetherness of Ireland and Northern Ireland and reached a significant agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process. While the majority of the citizens of Northern Ireland wanted to remain British citizens, a significant number of residents, along with the majority of Irish citizens, desired a unified island. After the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were revised via the 19th amendment “recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.” (April 10, 1998)
Now those are three rather huge events in Irish history wearing rather huge bonnets. And while that is plenty for you Hibernophiles to ponder along with me each Easter going forward (you’re welcome), I’d like for you to stretch your thoughts beyond the obvious.
When you think of Ireland’s freedom, what do you see? The tricololour flag? The Bobby Sands mural in Belfast? I’ll tell you what I see. I see the Gaeltacht. I see ‘Rhythm of the Dance’. I see “Once” and “Brooklyn” and “Sing Street”.
Don’t get me wrong….I see the Black and Tans. Of course I do. But in addition to freedom, I see saoirse. I see a country who calls herself Éire. I see Ogham stones protected and cherished. I see the passion to keep Ireland’s origins alive in so many of those associated with its fight for autonomy.The independence to govern oneself is achievement enough. The ability to preserve one’s culture and language is victory.