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Ireland's Easter Rising parade draws largest crowd in its history

By UPI Staff   |   March 27, 2016 at 1:36 PM

DUBLIN, Ireland, March 27 (UPI) -- A parade marking the 100th anniversary of Ireland's Easter Rising drew the largest crowd in the nation's history on Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the streets of Dublin for the parade, which featured a fly-over by the Irish Air Corps, the BBC reported.

The 1916 Easter Rising rebellion was an attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland. The parade Sunday was the culmination of a series of centenary commemorations organized by the Irish government.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins took the lead during the the main ceremony along O'Connell Street as the Irish flag was lowered at the General Post Office, the building that once served as the rebels' headquarters.

Higgins laid a wreath at the post office, alongside relatives in attendance of those who fought in the rebellion.

The flag above the building was then raised to full staff and "Amhrán na bhFiann," the Irish national anthem, was played as military planes flew overhead, the Irish Times reported.

About 3,722 troops marched in front of military vehicles along with emergency services personnel and army veterans, many of whom served on U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Representatives from the main political parties in Ireland, including Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, stood alongside senior officers of the military and descendants of the executed leaders.

"In this place of final moments, we are reminded of the comfort brought by faith to the leaders of the 1916 Rising," the Rev. Seamus Madigan, head chaplain of the defense forces told the crowd. "We remember, reflect and re-imagine our belief in life after love. We recall the love and devotion of the executed leaders -- for family, for country and for God."

A century ago on Sunday, what was then Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a group of Irish nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic and, along with 1,600 followers, staged a rebellion against the British government in Ireland.

The Irish rebels seized prominent buildings in Dublin and clashed with British troops. Within a week, more than 2,000 people were dead or injured, the rebellion squashed. The leaders of the rebellion were executed.

Initially, the Irish people showed little support for the Easter Rising, but public opinion later shifted and the executed leaders were hailed as martyrs.

A treaty was signed in 1922 establishing the Irish Free State, today, the Republic of Ireland.

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