Time sure does fly. 100 years. Two world wars, a few nuclear crises, the soviets came and went, and countless other life-altering events happened since the Irish won their independence from the English. Over 400 years of oppression ended the day that 7 men wrote and signed the Irish Proclamation of Independence. Sadly, the Easter Rising did not immediately succeed, and at the end of it, all seven men were killed by firing squad, ending all hopes of a rebellion in the minds of the English. Everything that happened after 1916 is a direct result of the sacrifices made by Thomas Clarke, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, P.H. Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Sean Mac Diarmada. Their bravery still shines as a beacon today and remind all Irishmen and women how much they should love their homeland.
Of course, this was not the case. Michael Collins and Eamonn De Valera emerged as the military and political leaders of the Irish. Not only did this rebellion lead to the creation of Ireland, but it also made one thing very clear: women could do a hell of a lot to make a rebellion successful. Women fought along side men during the Easter Rising (Cumann na mBan), sheltered soldiers of the IRA, and ferried battle plans and weapons for the IRA during the revolution.
With this in mind, we must also pay tribute to the many who died during the subsequent revolution. The monstrous deeds of the provisional IRA and now the real IRA are a stain on what the men and women of the IRB and IRA fought for 100 years ago. To hear people equate these heroic men with the terrorists that exist today is incredibly painful and ignorant. Many of my family members, both here and past, witnessed the atrocities of the British and the love and protection of the IRA. To be a fighter in the IRA at the time was a medal of honor, something to be proud of. They not only put their lives on the line fighting for what they believed in, but they put themselves at risk of torture, and their families at risk of torture and death. For this reason, their families also deserve great acknowledgement, for willingly taking on the weight and knowing the possible outcomes of being related to a member of the IRA.
Although Ireland wasn’t technically independent until the late 30s, the Irish Proclamation of 1916 that officially declared a Free Republic of Ireland was ratified as law in 1919. The Irish won their freedom today as far as I and most other Irishmen and women are concerned. Without the will and determination of those seven men, plus those who followed their footsteps as soldiers or as succeeding leaders, Ireland would still be nothing but an idea. Michael Collins’ military mind won the day for the Irish when he determined just how they should fight the English. Eamonn De Valera, despite what happened to Collins after, still deserves immense credit for his political leadership that was able to win 26 counties freedom from English oppression.
To say that I am proud to be Irish is an understatement. Being Irish means being resilient, passionate, emotional, hotheaded, loving, defensive, witty, and defiant. I try each day to be all of those things, and I think I’m successful most of the time, even if only in the negative senses of some. Half of my family came to America over a hundred years ago, leaving relatives behind, the fates of whom I don’t know. The other half came after they had grown up, around the 1920s-30s. They suffered through the injustices of the British, the violence of the Civil War, and everything in between. Thank God for their resilience and passion and defiance, because without them, I would not be here.
I live in America and I could not be happier to live in the Bronx. My heart, however, belongs to Ireland. Today is the 100th birthday of my nation. For almost 500 years, no one thought it could happen. All it took was 7 men with the will of a nation and 6 days of utter determination by those who dared to believe that Ireland was more than an idea.