It is Easter Sunday and I have just attended mass at the factory, the third mass my family has attended there. The faces are the same but the mood changes. At Christmas it was dark, cold and wet but there was light in that canteen as everyone was confident the new year would bring good news. On day 100 the canteen was quieter, the workers all seemed shell-shocked that they had been there so long. 100 days showed like 100 years in their faces. I took some pictures and later that night when I compared them to Christmas pictures I was struck by how much older they all looked, how 100 days could take such a toll on people I consider to be the strongest and bravest I know.
Elaine on a family holiday with her dad Greg, mother and sister in 1985
And then today on Easter Sunday, day 115, we all stood together again for mass. There was a different feeling in the air, spirits felt somewhat lifted. We hear every year that Easter is the season on hope. I believe in a power higher than myself but do not consider myself to be very spiritual but today, I felt the hope of this feast day in the canteen. Many people reading this will remember the two topics which dominated Irish education at this time every year, the Resurrection and the 1916 Rising. The words of my teachers came flooding back with haunting symbolism today. I remember our religion teacher telling us that the most powerful verse in all of scripture is simply this; “Jesus himself stood among them”. Jesus who had been crucified, died and buried had risen again. The resurrection story itself is a resurrection of belief.
I thought about the stories of the disciples in the days after Jesus’ death. How they must have been discouraged, worried, and fearful as many had either betrayed or deserted Jesus in despair. Despaired, hunted and hopeless, they huddled together because there was nothing else to do, nowhere to go and no plan. Three years of their lives following Jesus had simply a ghastly wreck of futility. Their beloved leader was dead and gone and all his promises seemed like a cruel hoax.
But then it happened, Jesus stood among them. From that room of gloom came forth the great joy of the resurrection.
This small band of homeless, jobless disciples changed the world. They had renewed hope and conviction in their teachings and they continued to write and preach the gospels. These twelve people influenced the world out of all proportion to their size and nearly powerless standing.
Forgive me for taking such a giant leap of imagination here but I saw that same hope in my dad and the other workers today. In contrast to the helpless and disillusioned aura on day 100, today I felt their strength. Their conviction to keep going today in the factory is palpable. The imminent mediation process has fired up a hope in them that there may be justice but also a determination that if this avenue fails they will continue to fight for what is right. The stance of the Game workers, the occupation in Belfast by the Lagan Brick workers, is a modern-day representation of the indomitable will and un-relating spirit of all those involved in the Easter Rising of 1916. I can see how that spirit has ignited a flame in these workers this weekend. I believe that Padraig Pearse and James Connolly are looking down on this factory canteen and that they recognize that the ideals, for which they gave their lives, are burning brightly amongst this small cohort of individuals who never set out to be heroes but who have acted heroically over the last 115 days. The men and women of 1916, against all the odds and hopelessness, did not waver in the face of the might of the British Empire and so too have the Vita Cortex workers retained their courage over three and a half months of struggle.
In his poem “A Song for Simeon” T.S. Elliot refers to Easter as “the birth season of decease”. The Livingston Tribune famously published that Easter “is a day to fan the ashes of dead hope, a day to banish doubts and seek the slopes where the sun is rising, to revel in the faith which transports us out of ourselves and the dead past into the vast and inviting unknown.” On day 115, Easter Sunday these workers are spurred on by the injustices of the past but bathed in hope and determination for a better future.
Just before the British executed Pearse he uttered the immortal words “You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win by a better deed.” Here are 32 of the “children” of which Pearse spoke. Their passion for freedom and justice remains intact.
Elaine Marshall is Greg Marshall daughter. She writes on Day 115. Her views are her own.