Easter Rising 1916
Stereoscopic view of Dublin ruins, 1916 Sean Sexton Collection

The Republic of Ireland is paying tribute to those who took part in the failed uprising which eventually led to independence this weekend. Memorial services and wreath-laying ceremonies are being held across the country in remembrance of the group of dissident poets, intellectuals and soldiers who tried and failed to overthrow British control of Ireland in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Events began at midday today, when President Michael D Higgins laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in central Dublin to remember the 450 men and women who lost their lives. Standing with him, to acknowledge a minute's silence and the hoisting of the Irish flag, was acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Security forces on both sides of the Irish border are on high alert this weekend, amid fears that hardline republicans could attempt to hijack the ceremonies to make a violent statement. With hundreds of thousands of people expected on the streets of Dublin, police are worried that groups like the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA, 'new' IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) will use the occasion to target and recruit disaffected youth – or even attack unionist targets.

Cultural events – involving free talks, exhibitions, debates, film, and performances – will be held at more than 200 venues across Dublin.

Brutally suppressed by British forces, the uprising sowed the eventual seeds of Ireland's independence. Beginning on Easter Monday in 1916, and taking advantage of a British government focused on the great War, about 1,500 nationalists marched on the centre of Dublin and declared an independent Republic on the steps of the General Post Office.

Six days of violence left hundreds dead and thousands injured and arrested after British forces intervened. 15 of the rebel leaders – including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly – were executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. An act of savagery that turned public opinion in Ireland against British rulers, it enabled Sinn Fein to sweep to power in the 1918 elections, guaranteeing independence.

Sinn Fein's leader Gerry Adams said: "When the British ruthlessly came in and killed the leaders, they quite deliberately took the head of the revolution. The thinkers and philosophers were removed."

According to Ireland's former prime minister John Bruton, the Easter Rising was not "a just war". He told Sky News that "1916 was unnecessary. We had Home Rule already. There was no need for violence. It didn't meet the criteria... of a just war."