By Ann Marie Foley - 07 May, 2015
At a Service of Remembrance and Reclamation for 40 children who were killed during the Easter Rising, President Michael D Higgins suggested that Ireland can remember them by ensuring that children of this decade fulfill their potential in peace and security, health and happiness.
“The children we celebrate today were denied their potential, their possibilities.”
“Today, as we restore to those forgotten children their rightful place in the story and the celebration of that founding moment of our State that was the Easter Rising, we can, perhaps, best honour their memory through the rebuilding and renewal of our society and the creation of an ethical foundation on which our Republic can grow and thrive,” he said.
He added that the day was an opportunity to reflect on citizenship, “the public world and the public space, the importance of each individual member of our community, and of our own duty and responsibility to seek to play a role in the creation of a fair and equitable society.”
This was the second such service to remember the children.
It was held on Tuesday (5 May) in St Patrick’s Church in Ringsend and attended by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough Dr Michael Jackson and local priest Fr Ivan Tonge.
Descendants of some of the dead were also present.
They included Canon Barbara Fryday, who is married to the nephew of Neville Fryday, a 16-year-old Tipperary man who lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian army and was shot while in Dublin on leave and wearing his uniform.
Fr Michael Scott is the nephew of eight-year-old Walter Scott, who was shot dead along with school pal by bullet from gunship Helga.
Dublin’s Lord Mayor Christy Burke and Cabinet ministers were also present and RTÉ’s Cór na nÓg and children from the local St Patrick’s National Schools. These young children read out the names of the dead during the service.
“Today we remember, by individual name, each of the 40 young citizens whose tragic deaths in 1916 did not bring forth memorials or plaques or indeed songs or poetry,” said President Higgins.
In fact many were in some of the worst housing conditions in Europe and perhaps this is why they, and their class, have remained obscure in stories of the Easter Rising.
However, he said it is not a time for recrimination and added, “We are invited to remember in a way that, through recalling the loss of these young lives, will grant us the freedom to deliver the best versions of ourselves in the present, and we hope that it will allow our past to inspire a moment of grace and even, at a distance in time, healing.”
A century on from the Rising, we have recently faced times of great challenges that have left us “wounded as a society”, he stated. This experience should encourage us to recognise what has failed us and to “commence a new chapter based on a different version of our Irishness.”
The event was organised by RTÉ presenter Joe Duffy, who invited many relatives of the deceased children to attend.
Initially Joe Duffy was asked by the Jack and Jill children’s charity to help with fundraising during an Easter period by painting an Easter Egg.
He thought Easter was synonymous with the Rising and wondered how many children died in the fighting and that began his trawl through death certificates, graveyards, newspaper reports and census.
He identified 40 people under 17 years of age, out of the total 374 civilians who were killed during the Easter Rising.
Back then children spent most of their time on the streets, so many were killed once the bullets started flying. Thirty of the slain were boys and 10 were girls.
Five of them were under five years of age, two were toddlers and one is listed as an infant. The children were both Catholic and Protestant.
Many were shot in the head – possibly because both the British Army and the Rebels wanted to deter looting and shot at families who were short of food and out looking for it in the chaos of the fighting.
The service will be broadcast on Sunday, May 10 on RTÉ One at 11am and on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra/LW252 at 11.45am.