On Thursday, 4th October, members of Cookstown and District Inter-Church Forum went by coach to Dublin.
On the way to Dublin, travelling via Cavan Town, three members of Cavan Inter-Faith Group joined the coach. The group had an excellent lunch in the Guinness Store Room restaurant, then had time for a walk around the former Guinness Brewery.
The group then made its way to Dublin Castle, where there was just time for a short tour of the building, or tea and coffee in the restaurant. The group stayed overnight in the Clarion Hotel, just outside the city, and there was the usual time for chatting and getting to know one another better, after a lovely evening meal.
Following a good breakfast, the group made its way to Kilmainham Gaol, where our guide was Ellie, who showed the group around the various important parts of the gaol, and told the stories of the people who had been incarcerated in the gaol, both during the 19th Century, and the early 20th Century, including the leaders of the Easter Rising, many of whom were shot in the yard. Kilmainham has a very interesting history, and was well restored in the 1960’s for the benefit of visitors like us. It is always worth a visit, and the guided tour brings out new facets of the gaol on each visit.
After a short period for lunch, the group made its way to the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, at Islandbridge. This beautiful memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and was built by ex-soldiers of the British and Irish Armies. It took a long time to be built, and was eventually opened in 1948.
The Gardens commemorate the death of 49,400 soldiers from the entire island of Ireland, whose names are recorded in four illuminated volumes, one in each of the Bookrooms. Although the gardens were not used very often for commemoration ceremonies, they were restored, re-opened and re-dedicated in 1988 by leaders of the four main churches. There was a ceremony to mark the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and the President, Mary McAleece, laid the first official wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice.
Following this, the group was taken around the sites of the Easter Rising, in 1916, by our very learned guide, Jim MacDermott, who gave a blow by blow account of the Rising, and spoke enthusiastically of the kind of men and women who were involved, and some of the heroic deeds performed by the small number of the rebels.
He pointed out that the rebels were not simply thugs, but were endowed with honour and valour, helping those who were injured, and allowing time for civilians to move out of the line of fire. He also pointed out the fact that many Dubliners were outraged by the rebellion, regarding it as stabbing many of their men in the back, for they were in France, and had served at Gallipoli. However, the reaction of the British Commander in Chief in Dublin, in holding Courts Martial on the leaders, and shooting them, turned the people against the crown forces, and the urgent order from the politicians in London, to stop.
The tour finished at the Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom” from the ’98 Rebellion through the 19th Century and includes those who died during the War of Independence, which ended in 1922.
This garden is located in Parnell Square, at the north end of O’Connell St. It has a pool in the shape of a cross, with a wave motif in tiles on the bottom. The memorial itself is a representation of the Children of Lir. Our friend, Mrs. Maura Hannon, from Cavan, told the story of the Children of Lir, after Jim MacDermott had expounded on the creation and dedication of the garden. Again, the garden is quite beautiful, and seems to be a quiet haven amid the bustle of modern Dublin.
Following this the coach made its way home to Cookstown, via Cavan, with a group of weary travellers, who had enjoyed two days of examining some of the historic sites of Dublin, which are connected to the period of centenaries which has already started.