On Saturday, my mama and I made a Republican pilgrimage to Arbour Hill. Ok, what really happened is we went looking for a cheese shop in Stoneybatter and happened to pass Arbour Hill. My mama asked me if I’d ever been to see the graves of the 1916 leaders.
Mama: Really? Your father, Midland Potato Farmer, never took you?*
And so it was we ended up in the graveyard. Arbour Hill, I should add, is a prison – and has been for over 150 years, first as a military prison, now as a medium-security prison. Following the 1916 Rising, its leaders were taken to Kilmainham Gaol and executed. They were then buried in the yard of Arbour Hill. Much later, the old military graveyard was opened to the public and a monument erected to the leaders and to the other fighters who died. Oh, and lest you be put off visiting, there is a big maximum-security style wall between the graveyard (and of course the Hallowed Revolutionary Dead) and the present-day inmates of Arbour Hill.
The monument consists of a big (not at all maximum-security style) wall bearing the text of the Proclamation of the Republic in Irish and English and a grassy mound edged in granite etched with the names of the leaders – who are buried underneath.
Reading the Proclamation, the cynic in me wonders what they were all smoking. The language is very of its time (and Mr Pearse and I would never, I’m pretty sure, have seen eye to eye.)
But it’s throat-tightening for all that in its idealism. And, of course, because we know that the men who signed it – along with many of their followers – were executed soon afterwards.
All in all, the simple monument is a vastly better idea than naming tower blocks in Ballymun after them.
*Some dialogue may be approximate.