Ten republicans executed by the British during the Irish war of independence 80 years ago were given state funerals after a procession through Dublin yesterday.
Among the 10 was Kevin Barry, who was immortalised in the song Just a Lad of 18 Summers, which is regarded as one of Ireland's most potent patriotic anthems. The 10, all of whom were hanged in 1920 and 1921, were disinterred from Mountjoy prison in Dublin, where some of them were buried in a communal grave. Up to 10,000 people lined the streets of the city at the time of their burials.
Yesterday, they were reinterred with full state honours at proceedings attended by Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, Mary McAleese, the Irish President, and other dignitaries. Also in attendance was a Sinn Fein delegation headed by Gerry Adams, the party president. Mr Ahern was accused by political opponents of seeking to take cynical electoral advantage of the occasion, which coincided with the annual conference of his Fianna Fail party.
Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein will be vying for votes in the next general election, with the republicans intent on increasing their present single seat in the Dail to four or more.
The two parties each lay claim to the Kevin Barry legacy, though in very different ways. Fianna Fail celebrates him as a figure of his time, arguing that his use of force was entirely legitimate in the context of a battle of national liberation. However, Fianna Fail and almost all other political entities in the Irish Republic strongly dispute Sinn Fein's belief that IRA violence during the past three decades represents a legitimate continuation of that of the 1920s.
The Irish Government's arranging of the funerals has sparked debate on whether Barry and his colleagues were justified in their actions.
Barry, a medical student, took part in an attempt to seize arms that led to three British soldiers, one aged 17, being shot dead. While most observers in the south seem to regard the incident as part of the warfare raging at the time, a number have argued that it is inappropriate to honour Barry while overlooking the victims, one of whom was younger than him. One columnist described Barry as "this baby-faced killer". The fact that thousands turned out yesterday, however, suggests this is a minority view.
The bodies were taken to Glasnevin cemetery in north Dublin, which already holds figures such as Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera. Mr Ahern said it was right that Ireland should "collectively, without distinction, pay honour to the 10 patriots, who sacrificed so much on our behalf". He said: "It's not a commemoration, but a funeral for men who never had a funeral before."
Meanwhile, five shots were fired during trouble in north Belfast early yesterday when about 100 nationalist and loyalist youths threw stones and fireworks at each other.
In Londonderry, two people were injured during disturbances that broke out when stone-throwers attacked police officers called to the area.Reuse content