Thursday 8 December 2016

Richard McElligott: Finally, we have remembered 1916 in a way that is measured and inclusive of all our history

A turning point

Richard McElligott

Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30

Members of the Defence Forces carry the flags of the garrisons which participated in the 1916 Rising across O’Connell Bridge. Photo: Conor McCabe
Members of the Defence Forces carry the flags of the garrisons which participated in the 1916 Rising across O’Connell Bridge. Photo: Conor McCabe

Yesterday witnessed the largest single day of commemoration of any event in the history of the Irish State.

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The 1916 centenary commemoration represented the centrepiece of Ireland's Decade of Centenaries. It has been meticulously planned over the past five years. In 2011, an Expert Advisory Group was established to assist the Government in planning the State's commemoration. It consisted of some of the foremost academics on modern Irish history and sought a tone for the events which would be "inclusive and non-triumphalist, ensuring authenticity, proportionality and openness". The culmination of these efforts was the Easter Sunday military parade in memory of all those who died in the attempt to break British rule in Ireland in the spring of 1916.

Since the mid-1920s, Easter Sunday has represented Ireland's national day of commemoration. Yet in contrast to the respectful and open manner which characterised yesterday's celebrations, for much of the past century the commemoration of 1916 has been divisive and contentious. Perhaps this was inevitable. Since 1923, various groups have sought to claim the sole inheritance to 1916 for their own political designs. After all, every major electoral party in the Republic has a direct link with the Rising and up until the 1960s, Ireland's political class was dominated by its veterans.

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