The rebellion of Easter Week 1916 was one of the formative events in Irish history and one of a number of events that led to the independence we now enjoy.
Those who initiated the Rising did so with high idealism, and a sense of self sacrifice. It was, however, a violent action involving loss of life. It was, as would have been anticipated by its initiators, violently suppressed with further loss of life.
As we have worked painstakingly over many years to remove violence from Irish politics, we must now do our best to commemorate 1916 in a way that does not glorify violence.
It is argued by many that the form and content of the 1966 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of 1916 romanticized violence and that this provided fuel to later republican violence. Fifty years later, the threat of republican violence has not completely disappeared. But how can one remember 1916 without glorifying the methods used in the conflict?
My proposal would be that, as part of the overall commemoration, all who died violently in Ireland in and around Easter week 1916 be remembered individually, and by name.
Naturally, a major focus should be on the Volunteers who died, and on the executed leaders. But I suggest we also remember, by name, the civilians killed by both sides the (unarmed) Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) members killed, the RIC members killed, and the British army soldiers (both those who were Irish, and those who were not) killed. This approach would put a focus on the cost of violence, the loss of life and the suffering, as well as the bereavement suffered by relatives. Many of these casualties would have had left orphaned children behind, and some of those who died were children themselves. It would be good, a century later, to remember them all.
There should be no hierarchy of victims. The descendants of all the victims should be recognised. It is worth saying that the families of the DMP, RIC, and army casualties who continued to live in Ireland may have felt that the loss they suffered was, in some sense, less recognised by their fellow Irish people, because of a perception that they had died on the "wrong side". Some may have been made to feel uncomfortable in their native land. A century later, that can be rebalanced a little.
It may be ambitious, but it would be good if the State invited a family member of every casualty of political violence in Ireland in 1916 to a commemoration, perhaps on the inclusive model of the National Day of Commemoration. With data now available, tracing these relatives would not be as difficult as it might have been 20 years ago.
I know that there will be a military element to the commemoration during Easter Week, and it might be perceived that a commemoration on the same day focusing on all the victims, would take from that. So perhaps this remembrance of the victims of the conflict could be done on another day, perhaps a week or two later, which might be appropriate anyway, given that some of the victims on all sides who died of their wounds would not have done so until sometime after Easter Week itself was over.
I recently learned from the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, that the Government is already moving in a similar direction. He told me that a commemorative wall is to be erected in Glasnevin Cemetery bearing the names of all who died in the 1916 Rebellion, regardless of the side (or none) they were on, or whether they were bearing arms, or whether were killed accidentally or deliberately. Those who were killed in the War of Independence and the Civil War will be added when those centenaries come around. This will remind future generations of the true price of warfare.
Ireland is proud of its modern record as a peacekeeper, so we should remind ourselves constantly of the pain and loss that flows from all military actions, including actions that were initiated 100 years ago by Irish people.
John Bruton is a former Taoiseach