Monday 23 April 2018

State should rescue 1916 centenary celebrations from tribal hijacking

Crowds watching the 90th anniversary commemoration of the 1916 Rising in O’Connell Street, Dublin in 2006.
Crowds watching the 90th anniversary commemoration of the 1916 Rising in O’Connell Street, Dublin in 2006.
Eamon Delaney

Eamon Delaney

The 1916 Rising has been described as the "triumph of failure", in that a clearly doomed revolt led to a resurgent nationalism and independence struggle. But the phrase also refers to the somewhat chaotic nature of the Rising's planning, the reliance on trenches in St Stephen's Green (!) and the fact that the insurrection was actually cancelled by Volunteers' leader Eoin MacNeill, before he was secretly overruled by Fenian militants.

Now it looks like our Government is seeking to emulate a similar sense of chaos and ill-preparedness in marking the Rising centenary next year. This week it was revealed just how last-minute these preparations were. Only the previous month Fáilte Ireland executive John Concannon was brought in to head up the project. A note from the office of the Minister for the Gaeltacht recommended the downgrading of the Irish language - despite the significant involvement of the Gaelic League in the actual Rising. To prove the point, the Irish version of the official 'Ireland 2016' website came from Google Translate and turned out to be mostly gibberish.

It is not as if the State had little time to prepare for this event - it had about 100 years to be precise. Yet the Government appears to have been completely wrong-footed. For example, also this week it was finally confirmed that a representative of the British royal family would not be invited to the commemorations, as it would only distract from the centrality of the event - something the Government should always have known. And yet such a possibility had been floated without any consultation with the expert committee that the Government itself had assembled to prepare for the event. It was the same with the crass official video for 'Ireland 2016', which featured the British queen and British prime minister David Cameron but made little or no reference to the actual event or even the Proclamation.

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