It has been 95 years since the 1916 Easter Rising, the abortive effort by Irish republican forces to bring an end to British rule. Still, the long-ago insurrection continues to resonate for many Philadelphians of Irish descent. After almost a century, a key stumbling block remains—Ireland remains divided.
Representatives of several groups, including Clan na Gael and Irish Northern Aid, will commemorate the rising—as they do every year—with a ceremony of remembrance Sunday at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon. The memorial will take place at the gravesite of Joseph McGarrity, a confirmed physical-force republican from Philadelphia who provided a considerable sum of money to the Irish rebels.
Patricia Noone Bonner has been taking part in the ceremony for about 40 years. She remembers attending with her children. For her, the struggle remains unfinished. Memories of the 1981 Irish hunger strike at Long Kesh remain painfully fresh.
For Bonner, it’s all too personal. Her father Martin Noone was a dedicated republican from a little village near Ballina, County Mayo, who ultimately left Ireland in 1924, after the Irish Civil War, to find some measure of peace in Philadelphia, joining his brother in his home across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at 3rd and Wolf.
To this day, Bonner is not completely certain of her father’s role in the troubles of the time. “He would have been too young for 1916,” she says. “I do know he was in the civil war. He went against the treaty with England. He didn’t go with the free-staters led by Michael Collins. But he didn’t talk about a lot of stuff. He talked about some things, but he didn’t talk about everything.” Martin Noone died in 1960.
As to why local Irish continue to commemorate the Easter Rising, Bonner is clear: “The 1916 rising was hopefully going to be the start of a united ireland. For us, it’s like celebrating the 4th of July. We do it in memory of all those patriots who have died for Ireland, and those who were in it (the Rising) who did not die.”
At McGarrity’s gravesite, this turning point in Irish history is recalled through the reading of the Proclamation of Indepenence, originally recited by prominent Irish leader Pádraig Pearse outside the General Post Office.
Continuing to remember the Rising is important, Bonner says, because “it’s still not a united Ireland. I know they are working toward it. They’ve stopped the armed struggle part of it. And many of the Irish will keep that goal in there minds over there, just like a lot of us here.”
The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m. in Holy Cross Cemetery, 626 Baily Road, in Yeadon.