Sunday 17 December 2017

Pomp - but significant oversight - as Sinn Féin launches Rising event

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

There was an impressive re-enactment of Padraig Pearse reciting from an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation, a full and solid-sounding programme of appropriate historically-centred events and, crucially, groups of approving 1916 relatives.

There was a chance to view the original door knocker taken from the GPO in the turmoil of the Rising, along with one of the weapons.

Even the choice of venue was perfect - Wynn's hotel on Dublin's Abbey Street was bombed in the 1916 Rising and was where both the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na nBan were founded.

You had to hand it to Sinn Féin - the launch of their alternative centenary commemorations for 2016 was flawless. Practically. They even had their own video which was rather dull but nevertheless an improvement on the Government's own shambolic attempt.

And as a simple and tuneful rendition of the national anthem concluded the proceedings, it was little wonder that the faces of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Mary Lou McDonald were wreathed in smiles.

"We don't see this as a counter event because the Government aren't doing anything," declared Mr Adams, accusing the State of being "embarrassed" by the Rising.

James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of 1916 leader James Connolly, said they were still waiting for the State programme - and warned the Government that it is running out of time.

"I can still feel the emotional heart throb because this is who we are as a people, as Republicans," declared Mr Adams, on how the Rising still resonates.

The party's solid programme appeared to leave the Government not just on the back foot but not at the races at all, where the commemorations are concerned.

However, in a statement, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht insisted that their plans for Ireland 2016 "are progressing extremely well."

"Just this week, Minister Humphreys updated the Taoiseach and other senior Government ministers on the range of initiatives being developed, including a schools programme," the statement said.

"Further details on each element of Ireland 2016 will be announced in due course," it added.

Sinn Féin's plans kick off this August, with a re-enactment of O'Donovan Rossa's funeral - where Pearse's graveside oration acted as a call to arms for the Rising.

A major exhibition will feature the Rising stories of leaders and ordinary people alike.

A march on International Women's Day, March 8 2016 will honour the women of Cumann na nBan. And dawn vigils will be held outside Kilmainham Gaol to commemorate the executions.

Where Sinn Féin run into trouble is with their plan to use the GPO as a giant screen on which to depict 3D footage to show the building virtually under fire and see the Rising play out.

Tenant An Post were not aware of the plans until contacted by the Irish Independent.

George Moir of the OPW's National Historic Properties section said: "I've never heard of it and my understanding is that we do have other events planned."

Asked if it was likely they might receive permission, he said: "It's like everything else, you have to ask first."

"Nobody can make exterior changes to a building without the OPW or the City Council as planner," he said.

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin said they had "begun the process" to seek permission.

"I've never heard of it and my understanding is that we do have other events planned."

Irish Independent

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