Upon entering you are greeted with a projected video which sets the scene for the rest of the exhibition. An Ireland on the brink of securing Home Rule, poverty stricken with its citizens living in the despicable conditions of the tenement housing. Revolution and rebellion is on the horizon, Home Rule was not and will not ever be enough for those fighting. The macabre feeling of unrest and oppression haunts the rest of the exhibition, the snippet from the graveside oration for O’ Donovan Rossa given by Pádraig Pearse “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace” ringing in your ears.
The location of the exhibition was beyond befitting, your perspective of O’ Connell street changed forever upon walking out the door. Wondering; what would the 1916 Leaders think of present-day Ireland? Is all their hard work and utter sacrifice going to be in vain? The Rebellion 1916 exhibition is beginning a long overdue conversation about national pride and heritage. Something which was nearly lost during the tumultuous time of recession in Ireland. This exhibition was better than any history class I ever had.
James Connolly Heron, great grandson of 1916 Leader James Connolly captured it perfectly in his speech, emphasising the responsibility of today’s generation to keep the fire alive. We must not forget the cultural rebirth of our defeated nation. We must inform ourselves of the heroes that transformed our country. Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly, Michael Collins, Clarke, McDermott. The women, Molly O’ Reilly, Elizabeth O’ Farrell, Countess Markievicz, Carney, Skinnider, Lynn, but to name a few, who destroyed the gender stereotype of the time and fought for the women’s rights which we utilise daily.
In Ireland today, it is hard to be patriotic without talk of taboo IRA and Republicanism rearing its head. Despite that, we should take pride in our language and our anthem. Blood was shed to make this possible. “The sword of light is now passing to a new generation, the incorruptible inheritors of Irish freedom. May it glow ever-bright in their warm embrace.”
The rest of the exhibition, ideal in length, displays a copy of the Proclamation, a day by day account of the 1916 Rising, the biography of it’s leaders and the women of the Rising, including a huge emphasis on the bravery of the work undertaken Molly O’ Reilly, all acknowledged in the massive presence of a statue by Stuart Dunne of O’ Reilly raising the flag of Ireland on Palm Sunday whilst dragging four men representative of the four provinces from the dust and dirt.
There is an inclusion of Irish artists such as the charcoal works in “An Túras Fada” and many other works by Irish artists Brian P. Mulvany and the series of portraits of the women of the Rising by Melissa Moore. This truly highlights the importance of Irish culture and heritage, not only in our every day but in the arts.
You are guaranteed to be immersed in Irish history with an exact replica of the GPO as was in 1916, with artefacts including the original door handle and the whistle belonging to the post officer at the time. Other artefacts included an array of Irish Volunteers uniforms, Howth Mauser rifles with serrated bayonets, the rifle of Michael Collins and the Casserly car which he used. The atmosphere outside the GPO that day was also created at the far side of the replica of the inside, with bombs and gunshot rattling through your ears.
A replica of the stone-breakers yard is on the exhibition trail where the leaders of the 1916 Rising were executed, their last words echoing in the background creating a harrowing experience. It is also possible to take a peek into the actual catacombs the leaders used for navigation during the Rising, left as they were.
The strife of the hunger strikers was also acknowledged in a series of murals and included artefacts belonging to a striker. Reminding you that the nightmare was actually a reality to them. The deprivation of food and intentional neglect of the prisoners ever-present and reflected in the lives lost.
The end of the exhibition informs you of the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and the following War of Independence and a list of the numerous lives lost.
Revolution 1916 – the Exhibition at the Ambassador Theatre opens from 10 am daily, with adult tickets from €15/OAP from €12 and under 16’s €10.