America’s Declaration of Independence begins with a stately flourish: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” But Ireland’s equivalent document, the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, gets right to the point: “In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”
There has always been a mystical bond between the United States and the Republic of Ireland. More than ten percent of all Americans claim Irish ancestry, and their number (36 million) is seven times greater than the population of Ireland itself. New York has nearly as many Irish residents as Dublin. And America is the only nation other than Ireland mentioned in the Proclamation, which serves as the birth certificate for a sovereign Éire — the country’s name for itself in its own language, Gaelic. A passage in the document acknowledges the support for Irish freedom, “by her exiled children in America.” Indeed, five of the Proclamation’s seven signers spent parts of their lives in the United States.
This Sunday (April 24) marks 100-year anniversary of the beginning of the six-day Easter Rising, which led to the Irish War of Independence, and culminated in the 1922 founding of the Irish Free State, which became the Republic of Ireland in 1948.
To mark the occasion, Wagner Park and Pier A will host the Centennial Commemoration & Celebration of New York-Ireland Friendship, from 11:00 am through 5:30 pm.
The program will begin with a reading of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the raising of the American and Irish flags. New York and Irish political leaders will participate, as will Irish military units and the New York Army National Guard’s renowned 69th Infantry Regiment, better known as the “Fighting 69th” and the “Fighting Irish” (long before Notre Dame borrowed the monicker). This unit actually began as a band of exiled Irish revolutionaries, training in America to bring the war home, before it was absorbed into the State’s militia. It earned an early reputation for orneriness in 1860, by refusing to parade in front of the visiting Prince of Wales then on a state visit to New York, and served with distinction on the morning of September 11, 2001, when it became one of the first military units to respond to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, where it secured a perimeter around Ground Zero, suffering two fatalities in the process.
The festivities will continue in Wagner Park and nearby Pier A, with “Welcome Ireland!” — a cultural program featuring Irish music, dance, theatre, and poetry. The South Street Seaport Museum’s historic schooner Lettie G. Howard will be also docked at Pier A, where her crew will offer demonstration in aspects of educational sail training.
For more information, or to register to attend (including free tickets to Pier A), please browse www.Ireland2016NY.com.