The Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland was remembered with a street renaming of a stairway in Maspeth Saturday with over 300 members of the Irish immigrant community turning out to pay their respects.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Consul General of Ireland Barbara Jones and community leaders unveiled the sign at 53rd Avenue from 65th Place to 64th Street and spoke about the sacrifices made in America and Ireland that eventually led to the island’s liberation from England.
The location for the street renaming was significant because it is near Cavalry Cemetery, where Irish immigrants came to bury their dead in the 19th century and the original location of the Celtic Park, an athletic facility and meeting ground for the Irish community in New York, local historian Ian McGowan said. The sign is also adjacent to a stairwell at the top of Maspeth Plateau, which offers views of the cemetery.
McGowan said Easter Rising organizer Roger Casement was able to acquire 20,000 rifles and a million rounds of ammunition from the German government through Celtic Park connections. A majority of the funds for the rebellion were raised in New York, according to McGowan.
The insurrection was ultimately a failure and ended in the execution of its seven main conspirators who were all members of the famed Irish Republican Brotherhood. Some 500 people were killed in the six-day uprising and 2,600 were wounded.
Adams, who led the struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland since the late 60s, has been imprisoned for alleged IRA membership, wounded in an assassination attempt and negotiated truces.
He spoke of the importance of the American connection to the liberation of Ireland and expressed the need for a new Irish unity between the Republic of Ireland and the north counties, which are part of Britain. He urged Americans to remember the role played by undocumented immigrants in the Easter Rising and called for the continued support of displaced people in the face of a changing of the guard in the White House.
Adams took time to pay homage to hunger striker Bobby Sands and the continued support of Ireland’s “excised children” since the Easter Rising.
“Irish America is the bridge, it’s the bridge between the Ireland and the political system here,” Adams said. “And that was successfully seen during the peace process. And people here mightn’t appreciate, but just by making whatever small contribution you made–even by word, even by just explaining something of what was happening back home–you became the drivers of Irish issues.”
Crowley recalled the long struggle of the Irish for freedom.
“Today, we commemorate the willful determination of the Irish people to chart their own futures. When our Irish ancestors saw injustices, they fought to make things right, to provide better lives and better opportunities for themselves and their children. These are values that are still fought for today both in Ireland and here in America,” Crowley said. “’Easter Rising Way’ will remind us of the struggle for equality, the progress we have made and injustices that are real here and abroad. We must continue to carry these values in our hearts and in our actions. And the transformation and name change of this staircase is symbolic of that struggle.”
Also delivering remarks were state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) who expressed support for the passage of marriage equality in Ireland.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall