Yesterday, as we know, was the 100th Easter Sunday since the Rising of 1916. It was a peculiar day characterised by a mixed bag of emotions – pride and reflection; disillusionment and anger. A pride stemming from reflection upon great sacrifice by the 7 leaders & co-signatories of the proclamation and the many hundreds of women and men who stood, and fell, alongside them.
The second principal emotion, though, is a disillusionment born out of the certain knowledge that the rebels perished 100 years ago would be greatly angered by a Country now so torn apart by inequality & injustice.
Instead of attending the official centenary parade yesterday afternoon, I decided
to join Erica Fleming, known for her”MyHomelessFamily” program on RTE, for an event she’d organised on Marlborough Street. The banner Erica and those there in solidarity with her stood behind read: “You won’t hear us, but you can see us”.
I’m very fortunate to have a home, on Corporation Street, a 3 minute walk from where today’s demo was held. In the 3 minutes it took me to walk up, I passed by 5 young homeless people, huddled against doorways along Talbot Street, as thousands of happy, healthy families walked by on their way to the parade. The line “You won’t hear us, but you can see us” really rang true. Here were human beings worthy of no less dignity or equality than any of us, whose spirit & optimism had been stolen from them by a succession of passive, disinterested Governments.
Elsewhere in the City, LUAS workers defiantly took to the streets to protest for better pay & conditions against a backdrop of sustained media attacks that have left public support for their cause at rock bottom. There’s a certain irony in this outrage towards ordinary workers mobilising on the weekend of Rising commemoration. Is the Larkin led lockout of 1913 now airbrushed from history?
Speaking of ironies, in this apparent Republic we call home, 12 women a day are travelling abroad, predominantly to the UK, to access reproductive healthcare. To be granted body autonomy legally. For every day the 8th Amendment is kept in our constitution, another 12 women travel. And another 12. And another 12. Since 1980, the total figure is upwards of 150,000. How high does that figure have to go before enough is finally ENOUGH? 200,000? A quarter of a million? A millio
So, the Republic of Ireland in 2016. 1,800 people in temporary & emergency accommodation. Ordinary workers enduring the vitriol of their peers. 12 women a day left isolated by their own Government and its archaic laws, being forced away from home. This is a cross-section of people with different circumstances but all of whom would have found it very, very difficult to feel remotely celebratory today.
I obviously won’t be around for the next centenary. But if our generation can set the wheels in motion on fighting for a truly equal Republic, perhaps the only knowledge our grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have of homelessness, of a war against the working class and of State-backed gender inequality would be from their history books.
We shouldn’t strive for any less, of course, but what a wonderful thing it would be.
Eoin O Faogain