Wednesday 24 May 2017

Our independence doesn't mean we sit on the sidelines as Britain leaves EU

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Liz O'Donnell

Liz O'Donnell

Marking the centenary of the Easter Rising was always going to be a delicate task. But in the round, the official celebrations were respectful, inclusive and blessed with good weather. Many of us learned more about the emergence of our State than we previously knew. For too long, perhaps, any detailed exploration of the Rising was avoided for fear of glorifying the physical force and revolutionary elements involved. For example, the 75th anniversary of 1916 was not marked by the then government for fear of legitimising the IRA campaign of violence still in play. There was no such reserve this time.

Our Defence Forces were central to the official events, allowing citizens to marvel at the professionalism so admired all over the world where they serve as UN peacekeepers. Proclamation day on March 15 was a huge success. It could become an annual event, engaging young children in the values we claim to hold dear and introducing them to the dignity due to our national flag. Most welcome, in my view, was that the official programme of events was not just an honouring of the rebel leaders but of all the 485 people who died during the Rising, including British soldiers, Volunteers and civilians, 40 of whom were children.

Monday's centenary concert, a musical tribute featuring the best of Irish music and culture, was a triumph and, for me, the highlight. Like many people, I wished my beloved deceased parents, of that great generation that built the State, could have enjoyed it.

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