It was, as so often has been the case, an unusually mild and sunny Bank Holiday Monday. Public transport was running a restricted service, yet still they came. Having being travelling since dawn, by ten O’clock they were arriving at the Dublin train and bus stations. Mainline locomotives disgorged hundreds of marchers from south, west and north-west of the country. Hundreds more arrived at Connolly station, from up and down the east coast. Led by James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Mallin and Markievicz the Amien Street marchers walked to Butt Bridge, merging with the thousands coming out of Busáras, from the buses of nationwide towns and villages. From Parnell Square came Éamonn Ceannt, Thomas Clarke, MacDiarmada, MacDonagh and Plunkett with thousands more. From Pearse Station came the brothers Padraig and Willie who, along with O’Hanrahan and Daly, led them down Westland Row. Roger Casement, John MacBride, Colbert, Kent and Heuston marched at the head of thousands from Victoria Quay up to Christchurch, merging with southsiders coming from St Patrick’s Cathedral and beyond. They marched without flags, banners or chants, just unswerving determination. All morning their numbers swelled. Every train, Dart, Luas and bus added to the crowd, so that thousands became ten of thousands and by lunchtime a half a million Irish residents filled Merrion Square, Kildare Street and all the surrounding roads from Grafton Street to Nassau Street; even filling St Stephen’s Green and from Baggot Street to Fitzwilliam Square. They sat, blocking any chance of Gardaí reinforcements reaching their colleagues at Leinster House, who were standing inside the now locked gates. Tall Jim Larkin standing close to the gates addressed their Sergeant on the other side.
‘You may either step through these gates and join us, or you may freely decide to stay inside with the members of the Oireachtas; it is your choice. However, no one else is going to enter or leave these grounds until the residents of the Irish Republic are free once more.’
A respectful humming of The Fields of Athenry spread through the populace, lifting the hearts of supporters and dissenters alike. When they went on to sing ‘A Nation Once Again’, their voices rising through the warm Dublin air, with moist eyes I realised that Ireland’s Green Revolution had truly begun. The deputies and staff staring out from the upstairs windows of Leinster House had no answers as they looked the eyes of the judging ghosts of 1916. A carpet of furious indignation returned their gaze and they realised that they were powerless to resist. Quietly, gate opened and three Gardaí stepped through to join the crowd outside.