Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fianna Fail attacks plans for royals to join 1916 celebrations

Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher
Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fianna Fail has hit out at the Government's plans to invite the British royal family to the 1916 Rising centenary celebrations.

Senior party member Billy Kelleher branded the decision to invite Prince Charles and Camilla for the 100-year commemoration as "superficial" and "done without thought".

Mr Kelleher said decisions on who should attend the "most significant event in recent Irish history" should not be made without the consultation of all political parties.

"I think before we start issuing invitations on a casual basis, almost without thought, we should sit down as a parliament, and as a people, and discuss it," he said.

Mr Kelleher said he "cringed" when he read reports that the Government was hoping to invite Prince Charles and Camilla to the centenary celebrations in 2016.

"It is nothing against the British monarchy, but the primary purpose of this commemoration is to celebrate the 1916 Rising," he added.

"There are a lot of complexities in Irish history and before we start inviting heads of state from around the world, let's have our own discussion."

The 'Sunday Independent' revealed that the Government was keen to have Charles, heir to the throne, and the Duchess of Cornwall take part in the celebration of the declaration of the Irish Republic. There is also a suggestion the darlings of the British media, William and Kate, could also attend.

Eamon Gilmore first mentioned the Coalition's intention to invite the British royal family and the UK government to the commemorations in September last year.

During President Michael D Higgins's state visit to Britain, Queen Elizabeth implied the monarchy would attend the commemorations.

Speaking at a banquet in Windsor Castle, she said: "My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was quick to welcome the queen's comments and said the Government would "work out" how a royal visit would factor into the commemorations.

However, he said some of the commemorative events were "quite sensitive" and should be dealt with properly.

Mr Gilmore was more forceful in his comments, saying the British and Irish Government were "very conscious that we should do this together".

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter criticised the Government for inviting the royals without first consulting the expert advisory group it established to advise on the 1916 celebrations.

Writing in the Irish Independent, Mr Ferriter, who is on the advisory panel, said a distinction should be made "between history and current politics".

"Having royals at the table of all the State's commemorations will begin to look like the State desires some kind of British approval, which smacks of a post-colonial inferiority complex," he added.

President Higgins's state visit to Britain was seen as a major milestone in Anglo-Irish relations and followed Queen Elizabeth's trip to Ireland in 2011.

Former president Mary McAleese was instrumental in building ties between the two nations. Ms McAleese, along with President Higgins, is likely to play a role in the Easter Rising celebration in two years.

However, there are doubts over whether the Coalition will still be in Government when the commemorations take place.

In 2016, Easter falls early in March and a general election is due to take place in the same month.

Irish Independent

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