Mary Donoghue McCain, Irish studies program director and instructor of history and Catholic studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, reveals why this St. Patrick’s Day is especially memorable. As you read her commentary below, listen to an Irish jig to get into the St. Paddy’s Day spirit.
Shamrocks, leprechauns and a bright-green Chicago River have been part of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations for decades, but there’s always been more to the holiday than the omnipresent emerald color scheme. Highlighting Irish immigrants and their descendants as community builders from New York to New Orleans has been a vital element of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States from the start.
This year, however, many public celebrations, including Chicago’s downtown parade last Saturday, are placing an additional focus on the Irish as nation builders as the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is commemorated worldwide. The rising was a crucial milestone in Ireland’s drive for independence from Britain, and though the rising itself lasted less than a week, its legacy and the ideals of its founders continue to inspire the Irish people at home and abroad.
On April 24, 1916, a small group of Irish Volunteers took over the General Post Office in Dublin’s city center, a building that symbolized British rule. Patrick Pearse read the “Proclamation of the Irish Republic,” which promised voting rights for women and equal civil and religious rights for Protestants and Catholics alike. The rising involved about 2,600 people, including approximately 300 women, and was put down within days by the British army. Just a few days after the rebel leaders surrendered, the army began conducting trials and executions. By mid-May 1916, 15 men had been executed, and another was executed that August. Many Irish believed the British had overreacted to the rebellion, and they turned against remaining part of the United Kingdom. By late 1921, after political revolution and the War of Independence, the Irish Free State was finally established.
A century after the Rising, the Irish government and countless other organizations in Ireland have planned a series of events to not only reflect on the Rising itself, but also to encourage anyone with a connection to Ireland to “remember, reflect and re-imagine,” according to material prepared by Ireland 2016.
How do you plan to celebrate the holiday or the Easter Rising anniversary? Leave us a comment below!