Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have reacted strongly to the Dublin government’s plans to reinvent the 1916 Easter Rising as an Anglo-Irish ‘celebration’ including the British government and leading members of the British royal family.
Plans are well advanced to invite England’s Prince Charles and his partner, Camilla Parker-Bowles, for the 100-year commemoration of the revolution which ended in the brutal execution of its leaders by the British authorities.
“The leading figure [for a 2016 visit] would be Charles”, a government official was quoted as saying by a Sunday newspaper. “That’s what the speculation would focus on and that’s the next big one... The conversations going on are about Charles. Everyone wants it to happen on both sides.”
Senior Fianna Fail member Billy Kelleher said he “cringed” at the plan, which he said was “superficial” and “done without thought”.
Decisions on who should attend the “most significant event in recent Irish history” should not be made without the consultation of all political parties, the Cork TD said. “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.”
There have also been signals that William and Kate Windsor, may attend future government centenaries, such as those around the War of Independence and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The next generation of royals are considered to be substantially more popular in Ireland than Charles and Camilla.
Earlier this month, the English queen herself said her family would “stand alongside” the 26-County President Michael D Higgins for the anniversary of the Easter Rising. Her carefully planned comments came during Higgins’s state visit to London. At that time, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said his government would “work out” how a British royal visit would factor into the commemorations, which we said were “quite sensitive” and should be dealt with by “authentic” historians.
In response, UCD historian Diarmaid Ferriter said that having royals at the table of the government’s commemorations made it appear the 26-County State “desires some kind of British approval”, and that this “smacks of a post-colonial inferiority complex”.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused Kenny’s government of attempting to “dumb down” Easter 1916. He said that the proclamation of the Republic remained “unfinished business”.
He accepted that the First World War was an important historic event and given the numbers of Irish men, nationalist and unionist, who fought and died, it should be remembered.
“However, the Easter Rising was a defining part of the revolutionary period in Ireland and was a strike for the freedom of the Irish nation. There can be no equivalence between the two,” he said.
He added that the 1916 goal of a free, united Ireland was “unfinished business which the vast majority of the Irish people want to see brought to completion”.
The president of Republican Sinn Fein also warned of an attempt to “sanitise our history to the point that It has been robbed of any meaning”.
Des Dalton, was speaking at Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery during the party’s Easter commemoration, warned that a bid by the 26-County government to join the British Commonwealth [of former British colonies] was approaching.
“Equivalence is being made between the forces of occupation and the independence movement that no self-respecting nation would contemplate,” he added.
“The proposal to invite members of the British Royal famlly to attend to attend 26 County State events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising underlines the intent of the political establishment to invert the meaning of 1916 in order to cement British rule and the partition of Ireland,” he said.