Monday 5 December 2016

A day for us all to make a proclamation

A new generation is voicing its hopes and values for the next 100 years, writes Katherine Donnelly

Published 03/03/2016 | 02:30

The Irish flag flies over Government Buildings.
The Irish flag flies over Government Buildings.
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

When Patrick Pearse stood outside the GPO shortly after noon on Easter Monday 1916, a lone voice setting out a vision for a Republic, he probably couldn't be heard on the far side of O'Connell Street (Sackville Street back then).

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Almost 100 years on, on March 15, his words will ring through every parish in the country, when the 1916 Proclamation is read out in 4,000 primary and post-primary schools as well as preschools and further and higher education colleges.

Far from the uncertainty, division and impending violence that marked that moment on April 24, 1916, and the weeks and years that followed it, Proclamation Day 2016 will be a celebration of its powerful legacy.

More than that, the day will be an opportunity to encapsulate the values and hopes of the nation for the next 100 years, in the Proclamation for a New Generation that all schools have been invited to draw up as part of the 1916 commemorations.

Proclamation Day is one of the highlights of the Ireland 2016 programme, when schools will showcase not only their Proclamation for a New Generation but the various other projects relating to 1916 that they have worked on in recent months.

Alongside the Proclamation for a New Generation, students have been enthusiastically involved in a variety of activities to mark the centenary, including the 1916 Ancestry Project and drama, film, music and art initiatives. Another is the Schools' Collection 2016, a partnership between the Department of Education and Skills' PDST Technology in Education service, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, the Irish Independent and UCD Decade of Centenaries, where schools were invited to collect family or community history and record it digitally.

There is feverish activity and excitement in schools as they prepare for March 15, when student displays and performances will be shared and enjoyed not only by pupils and staff but with families and the local community to whom many schools are opening their doors.

Preparations for Proclamation Day in the education sector kicked off last September when members of the Defence Forces, started travelling around the country presenting a national flag to every school, building on the work of the Thomas F Meagher Foundation. It was Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish patriot, who flew the first Irish Tricolour on March 7, 1848, in Waterford city.

The day will start in schools with the raising of the Tricolour, as it was over the GPO on Easter Monday 1916, followed by a reading of the 1916 Proclamation and then the unveiling of the school's own contributions to the commemorations, including the Proclamation for a New Generation.

The Proclamation project grabbed the imagination of pupils all around the country who have made tremendous efforts to articulate the legacy that they want to create for present and future generations.

In drafting a new Proclamation, schools were asked to reflect the values and hopes of the 2016 generation, starting with an analysis of the ideals, principles and aspirations of the 1916 Proclamation.

A century on, the sentiments expressed in the 1916 Proclamation still resonate, promising, as it did, a Republic that "guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally".

Children and teenagers in modern Ireland have delivered a ringing endorsement of all of those ideals, but the school proclamations also take account of new challenges and put it up to policy makers and the population to meet those.

In recent weeks, teachesrs have started uploading their Proclamations on to the Scoilnet.ie website for all to see. Scoilnet is a Department of Education and Skills online resource for schools, with content tailored specifically to the Irish curriculum.

In addition, as part of the Ireland 2016 programme, young people have been invited to record a video of their Proclamation and to showcase it on the Ireland 2016 YouTube channel.

Scoilnet.ie will also be a digital repository for other 1916-related initiatives, including the ancestry project and the Schools' Collection, providing an invaluable record of the work done in schools to commemorate events of 100 years ago .

Irish Independent

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