Probably the best way to judge our decade of centenaries is to ask how history itself will see our efforts. What will the view be ten or 20 years from now?
When we look back at what we did in 1966 for the 50th anniversary of 1916 we can see that we got plenty of parades; speeches by the hundred, often of a very self-congratulatory type; a few monuments; honorary degrees for the families of the signatories, with one family declining to accept the offer; and a glut of historical publications, some good, others less so.
But when it was all over, can we say we got much of lasting value, anything which endured and made a difference?
The answer is no.
So the first thing to look at this time is, will there be an enduring physical legacy?
The answer this time is emphatically yes, and much of it should be in place by the end of 2016.
This is the Dublin Freedom Trail, which is being developed by the OPW. This will start in the GPO with the new 1916 museum and interpretative centre, which will explain and recreate the events and personalities of Easter week in the GPO. It will then move to the planned interpretative centre in Moore Street (unfortunately, still a subject of disagreement), where the surrender took place, then on to a similar centre in Richmond Barracks, where the leaders and others were kept before being tried - a who's who of later leaders of the country: Collins, de Valera, Cosgrave.
Then on to Kilmainham Courthouse, where the trials were held, and finally to Kilmainham Gaol, where the executions took place.
What this means is that people will be able to have recreated for themselves, using the best of modern technology and up-to-date, accurate research, the events as they happened and in the buildings in which they happened.
This is an innovation which will endure and will hopefully bring home to people the reality of that week which changed Irish history, and do so in a way that is accurate and truthful, with no element of propaganda.
The second enduring feature of the decade will deepen our understanding of the history of that period through the release and, more importantly, the digitisation of the military service pension files.
This may seem academic, but it is much more than that. It is the first-hand record of many of the survivors of the period, recorded on the understanding it would never be released in their lifetime. It is a treasure trove, but the key point is that it is easily accessible to relatives or indeed to those who want to hear the stories of those years in the words of those who were there. This, too, will endure as a legacy, as will the restoration of the cottage of Pearse in Rosmuc, Co Galway.
Again, looking back at 1966 we can see that the celebrations excluded as many as they included. It was a celebration of the mainstream nationalist tradition, with no place for those who did not belong.
This time there has been a huge change. Inclusivity has become a major aspect now and my own experience from meetings all over the country is that, as on so many issues, the people are ahead of the politicians. People whose relatives fought and died in the Great War can now hold their heads high and honour their people and hold their commemoration ceremonies in an atmosphere of tolerance.
This was not possible in 1966, nor was it possible then to understand why unionist people north and south of the Border did not want 1916. Nor did the Irish Party get much of a hearing in 1966.
There is now a much greater acceptance of the diversity of our past and a willingness to accept the right of people to the full expression of their own sense of identity.
One of the genuine achievements of 1966 was the willingness of so many local communities to get involved and to remember what happened in their communities. That, in a way, is the biggest challenge this time round. There has been a burgeoning of local history societies and the availability of new records makes the recreation of local events in the decade possible. But these efforts need financial support and official encouragement. The returns would be disproportionate to the investment and must be given priority. As should the encouragement of schools to involve their students in local research.
For many people the commemorations are seen largely in term of ceremony, and the importance here is huge. In some ways this is the aspect about which I feel we need have no worries. This is something our Defence Forces do very well indeed and they will not be found wanting this time.
There are other aspects by which we will be judged. Are we encouraging genuine scholarly research into all aspects, including some which may not be comfortable? My own view is that the universities and other educational bodies have reacted with imagination and enthusiasm and there are many genuinely impressive programmes in place. This is something which redounds to their credit and not to the State.
Fears have been expressed that the events may be politicised. There may be those who will try to seize 'ownership' of 1916. I do not believe they will succeed. There are few votes in '1916' and many who will be alienated by any attempt to hijack a history which belongs to all of us. And any attempt to do so, be it crude or subtle, deserves to be treated with contempt, as I believe it will be. Dr Maurice Manning is Chair of the Government's Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations