The reopening of the Croppies’ Acre memorial in recent weeks is a great development, returning to the public a space that was much neglected in recent years.
Dublin City Council have taken control of the management of the park, and one of the final acts of the excellent Ardmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh was cutting the ribbon. In recent years, the site became totally synonymous with anti-social behaviour, and for that reason it has been largely behind lock and key. Our own Luke Fallon jumped the wall for a look at the state of things in October 2013, and was shocked by the sight of used needles and more besides. In recent weeks, the sight of people in and out of the park has been great to see, as it is only through people using the park that the issues that plagued it in the past will vanish with time.
One feature of the park that can easily be missed is the foundation stone of the Wolfe Tone Memorial, first unveiled at St. Stephen’s Green in 1898 during the centenary commemorations of the United Irish rebellion, and photographed above. On that occasion, the veteran Fenian leader John O’Leary was given the honours, telling the huge crowd that “Tone’s failure is grander than many a success, for he fell gloriously in a great attempt.” Symbolically, the foundation stone came from Cave Hill in Belfast, the birthplace of the United Irish movement. The Fusiliers’ Arch memorial now stands in the location where Tone’s monument was envisioned, though Edward Delaney’s excellent 1964 tribute to Wolfe Tone eventually ensured the revolutionary leader was commemorated nearby.
The Croppies’ Acre memorial as is stands today dates largely to the bicentenary of the United Irish uprising in 1998. The memorial includes the beautiful words of Seamus Heaney’s Requiem for the Croppies, as well as words in French, Irish and English that encapsulate the radical vision of the United Irishmen. A movement in the spirit of the storming of the Bastille and the great Tom Paine’s Rights of Man, they were the Irish embodiment of an ‘Age of Revolution’.
This year has witnessed an enormous emphasis on commemoration and places of memory in Dublin, yet we should remember that the Republicanism and radicalism of those who rose in 1916 owed much to the inspiration of earlier generations. Be sure to visit the park, and may it remain open to the public for many years to come.