The Paths to Freedom conference in Tallaght Stadium last Saturday February 27th was a huge success with over two hundred people attending. The event was part of South Dublin County Council’s 1916 Centenary programme, celebrating the centenary since the Rising.
The conference was introduced by Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Guss O’Connell who said he hoped that the event would reflect on the ‘idealism, aspirations and hopes of the 1916 leaders’. RTÉ broadcaster and historian Dr. Myles Dungan was accompanied by leading academics and entertainers who presented a unique package of lectures and presentations to remember the Rising, 100 years on.
The morning was kicked off by Turtle Bunbury, author of Easter Dawn – the 1916 Rising who spoke about the lives of the leaders of the Rising, weaving the story of these men with that of the Rising, bringing in some of the other Dublin-born men and women – actors, playwrights, musicians and soldiers – who played upon the stage that epic week. Myles Dungan then spoke about the rebels’ courts martial and the British response to the Rising which was he said, in retrospect, a huge miscalculation, and of dubious legality, even in the context of a military emergency.
After lunch, Catriona Crowe of the National Archives of Ireland gave an insight into the lives of the Dublin people in the years immediately before the Rising, reflecting on the inequality that existed in the city, with Dublin having some of the worst tenements in Europe at the time.
RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy spoke about the children who died as a result of the fighting of Easter week 1916, the subject of his recent bestselling book, Children of the Rising. So far his research has verified 40 children aged 16 and under who died violently in the Rising. Using family sources, newspaper reports, census returns, compensation claims, birth and death certificates, this list is a glimpse of the lives of poor and rich, living side by side in a cramped, crowded city.
The day was rounded up by Liz Gillis, historian and author, who discussed the vital role that women played in the Easter Rising. Although often overlooked, seen as mere supporters of the Rising and the revolutionary movement that followed, this talk showed exactly what these women could do and did do in the Easter Rising.