"Today is a day of remembrance, reconciliation and renewal," said Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, after laying a wreath in the city's Kilmainham jail in memory of rebel leaders executed there.

"We will fittingly commemorate the patriotism and vision of those who set in train an unstoppable process which led to this country's political independence," he added.

 

Thousands turned out to watch the parade as it passed the General Post Office building where the rebels launched their rebellion against British rule.

 

The Irish flag was lowered to half mast over the post office and an army officer re-read the statement recited by rebel leader Padraig Pearse proclaiming Ireland's independence.

Abandoned tradition

The April 24 to May 1 1916 uprising ended in failure with about 500 dead, 2,500 wounded and more than 2,000 imprisoned.

 

However, the insurrection was a crucial factor in the country's freedom struggle and subsequent independence in 1922.

 

In 1970, as violence sharply increased in Northern Ireland, Dublin's government abandoned the tradition of Easter Sunday military parades to mark the insurrection.

 

The main factor in axing the parades was the re-emergence of political party Sinn Fein's military wing, the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

 

The group used the example of 1916 as justification for its campaign of violence against British rule in Northern Ireland.