Friday, October 17, 2014

Commemorating the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising

The Centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising is now less than two years away.

This hugely significant date in the history of the Irish nation should be marked in an appropriate, sensitive and inclusive manner.

Any commemoration should be a fitting popular acknowledgement of the past but also, and just as importantly, an opportunity for all of us - political representatives and citizens alike - North and South, to engage in a serious discussion about what kind of an Ireland we want to build for the future.

But as yet, no plan, no proposal and no programme of events, outlining how, where or what the Government intends to organise to mark this event has been published. This should be a cause for concern.

Indeed, the only idea mooted by senior members of the Cabinet so far has been to invite members of the English royal family to whatever ceremony eventually takes place.

Compounding the Government's bungling approach has been the shabby treatment of the relatives of those who fought on Easter Week 1916.

The Government was forced to retract earlier media briefings that relatives would not be accommodated at the official ceremonies.

Meanwhile the prospect of the buildings, streets and laneways of history around Moore Street and the last headquarters of the leaders of the a Rising, being demolished to facilitate the building of a shopping centre, has understandably shocked and deeply angered many citizens

This Government's extremely tardy attitude to marking the most important single event in modern Irish history, stands in stark and shameful contrast to the way other states acclaim those who fought for their freedom and independence.

Any state-organised commemoration should be inclusive and involve much more than a mere military parade in Dublin.

There is huge scope for associated cultural events in all 32 Counties of Ireland which would bring home the ideals and history of 1916 to the whole population of the island, young and old.

There is an unprecedented opportunity also to involve the Irish diaspora in the public life of the nation by ensuring the involvement of the Irish in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and elsewhere.

The 1916 Rising and its aftermath had ramifications far beyond the shores of Ireland. It had major international significance and the subsequent guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland became a template for those struggling against imperialism and colonial rule elsewhere.

It is important therefore that any commemorative events have an international dimension and flavour.

No one party or group has a monopoly on the memory of 1916 or indeed of republicanism. It must also be remembered that the Rising was the result of a coming together of many groups in Irish society, including the nationalist, the socialist, the women’s movement, the trade unions, cultural and Irish language activists. All these strands must be represented in any future commemorations.

The significance of this anniversary and the fact that no plan has emerged is an indictment of the Fine Gael/Labour Government's approach.

The Government's amnesia about this country's revolutionary period betrays a lack of confidence in the Government's own political position regarding these events and how the ideals of 1916 remain unfulfilled.

At the core of this, I believe, is the manner in which the policies they have pursued fail to measure up to the promise of the 1916 Proclamation.

In my view, the democratic and republican principles of freedom and equality contained in the 1916 Proclamation are as relevant to the Ireland of 2014 as they were in 1916.

The Southern state is not the republic envisaged by those who wrote the Proclamation. They had a vision for a real republic – a republic of justice, equality and fairness – a republic for all the people of this island. That is in direct contradiction to the policies being pursued by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil.

The Government's and the Taoiseach's attitude to 1916 is very far removed from that of most Irish citizens who are very proud of the men and women of Easter Week, who proclaimed an independent Irish Republic and asserted in arms Ireland's right to unity and independence.

One thing is sure however. The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising will be marked, and in a big way, by ordinary people across this island with the support and leadership of Irish republicans, whether or not the Irish Government is involved.

1 comment:

Philip Campbell said...

Well said Gerry. I have been waiting and hoping that an ambitious plan would enthuse us all but you're right. It will have to be driven from the bottom up, otherwise it will become a shambles. It's almost too late to pull something off that befits the once-off historical opportunity, but not quite. You started Féile an Phobail. No better man to take the lead on this one. Go n-éirí leat. Déanfaimid uilig le chéile é.