Leeds is celebrating Irish History Month with a variety of events, marking 100 years since the 1916 Easter Rising which heralded the beginning of Irish independence from British rule.
The Leeds Irish community came out in force for a St Patrick’s Day parade through the city on Sunday, ending in Millennium Square with an afternoon of Irish music and dancing in front of a 5,000-strong crowd.
The day was organised by Leeds Going Irish, a volunteer-led organisation which works throughout the year to keep Irish traditions alive in Leeds.
Hugh O’Malley, secretary of the organisation, wants people to embrace both their Irish and their Yorkshire heritage: “Both my parents are from County Mayo (in Ireland) but I was born in England.
“My family has always been involved with the Irish community so it’s always been around me and you never thought you were part of anything else really. That heritage is a big part of me.”
Mr O’Malley has kept that heritage going, with his daughters attending Irish dancing classes when they were young: “One of my daughters really enjoyed the Irish dancing and can play some Irish music, and most of my children are here today to enjoy the parade.”
Ahead of competing at the Irish Dancing World Championships in Glasgow on Sunday, Leeds Academy School of Irish Dancing put on a display.
One of the dancers, Alana Mountain, 13, said: “I love Irish dancing because when you go to competitions you can meet lots of new people from all over the world. I’m really excited for the world championships.
“My mum and grandma used to do Irish dancing and I want to keep that tradition going.”
Dr Ivan Gibbons, programme director for the MA in Irish studies at the university says there’s been a renewed interested in Irish culture: “Irish culture is thriving at the moment.
“Ever since the Good Friday agreement in 1999 and more recently the visit of the Queen to Ireland in 2011, there has been more interest in Irish music, literature, language and history. A lot of that is from second and third generation Irish people who want to keep that heritage going.”
The 1916 Easter Rising: A History
A group of Irish republicans mounted the campaign to establish an independent Ireland, led by Irish language activist Patrick Pearse.
The armed insurrection lasted for six days over Easter 1916, with the republicans famously taking over Dublin’s General Post Office building.
Pearse offered unconditional surrender after six days, though the campaign led to further discussions about the removal of Ireland from British rule, eventually resulting in freedom.
Many of those who took part in the rebellion were executed at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, with many others jailed including Countess Markievicz (Constance Gore-Booth), the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons, though she never took her seat.
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