FAIRFIELD, Conn. — For about 11 years now, Irish history buffs have gathered at the Gaelic-American Club each April to remember the martyrs of the 1916 Easter Rising, a bloody five-day battle with the British that eventually led to the independent Republic of Ireland.
But this year will be a little different. On Sunday, April 24, the 100th anniversary of the historic events, organizers will unveil a moving monument outside the club to those who fought and died in the battle. They will also welcome the Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, bishop of Bridgeport, who will celebrate a 2 p.m. Mass at nearby St. Thomas Aquinas Church.
“It means a lot to me,” said Irish-born Pat O’Connell, a member of the 100th Anniversary Easter Rising Committee. “These men actually made a self-sacrifice. They understood what the consequences would be.”
On April 24, 1916, a group of Irish patriots launched a rising in Dublin, in hopes of freeing their country from British rule and oppression.
Seven of the leaders signed a proclamation declaring Ireland free and independent. A small group of fighters took over several key city buildings, including the General Post Office, where the proclamation was read publicly.
But the band was no match for the British forces that converged on the city. Within five days, thousands were dead and the rebels were forced to surrender. The British court-martialed and shot 15 men, including the original seven signers of the proclamation.
Though the Irish people on the whole were not in favor of the rising, the executions turned public sentiment and eventually led to a war of independence and the Republic of Ireland, O’Connell said.
The new monument is made of green granite and stands more than five feet high. Created by Connecticut-based sculptor Susan Clinard, it bears a bronze relief with the faces of the seven signatories.
The committee started raising funds for the memorial about five years ago, O’Connell said.
The day of activities begins with the 2 p.m. Mass at St. Thomas, 1719 Post Road. Caggiano will be assisted by the Rev. Victor Martin, pastor of the church, and the Rev. Charles Allen of Fairfield University.
The monument unveiling and blessing with take place at 4 p.m. at the club, 74 Beach Road. The committee will host a reception at the club, featuring light refreshments, Irish entertainment and remarks by guest speaker Martin Galvin.
For more information, call 203-644-9073 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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