The centenary of the Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland was marked by an event in Waterford city hall on Wednesday evening.
The event is the start of the decade of commemorations to mark the 1912-1922 period prepared under the direction of the 26-County Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan.
“The decade that commenced [with] the introduction in the parliament at Westminster of the Home Rule Bill in April, 1912 remains the most momentous of our modern history. I am proud to be beginning the decade of commemorations in Waterford, and I look forward to the opportunity to mark the milestones in our country’s history with a series of events over the coming months and years,” said Mr Deenihan.
The Third Home Rule was supported by Waterford barrister John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons. It provided for a measure of devolution for Ireland, although the plan was abandoned at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Redmond was subsequently denounced by Irish nationalists for allowing Irish independence to be compromised by a unionist agenda at Westminster, and was reviled by the rebels of Easter 1916.
Writing this week, former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach John Bruton, who has a reputation for expressing strongly pro-unionist views, controversially claimed that Redmond’s position “was more enlightened than that of the republicans of Easter Week 1916”.
He said the concessions made by Redmond, including disastrously advocating that Irishmen join the British Army at the outset of the First World War, were the first attempt to achieve “unity by consent”.
SINN FEIN BANNED FROM STORMONT EVENT
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that hundreds of Orangemen will participate in a victory parade through Belfast to the Stormont Estate, this September, marching past the Six County Assembly.
The event will mark the 100th anniversary of Ulster Covenant, the symbolic centre-piece of the unionist campaign against proposals to introduce Home Rule.
A platform for speeches is to be erected close to the roundabout containing the monument of Edward Carson, the then leader of Irish unionism, and later Ulster Unionism, directly in front of the Stormont Assembly buildings.
Government officials in Dublin, London and Belfast and Sinn Fein representatives have engaged in intensive efforts in recent months to ensure that the decade of commemorations passes off peacefully and without encouraging radical political demonstrations or actions.
However, an offer by Belfast’s Sinn Fein mayor to attend the mass unionist rally has been rejected this week by the Orange Order.
Niall O Donnghaile said if he was invited to the event he would “give it some serious thought” in line with party policy to accept all invitations to commemoration events.
He will have stepped down as mayor by the time it takes place in September but will remain a Sinn Fein councillor for east Belfast.
While the parade route is not decided, it is likely to pass by the nationalist Short Strand area, where Mr O Donnghaile lives.
“I know Sinn Fein and other organisations like the GAA have committed to taking part in all events when asked,” Mr O Donnghaile said.
“[Former Sinn Fein mayor] Tom Hartley took part in a discussion on the Ulster Covenant and Martin McGuinness has also attended a lecture.
“I’m prepared to do the same in my role and although I will be out of the office by that stage, I will still be an elected representative of east Belfast. So if I am invited I would certainly give it some serious thought.
However, when the Orange Order was asked whether the republican politician would be welcome, a spokesman immediately ruled it out.
“The institution has no plans to invite Sinn Fein to the parade,” he said.
Leading Orangeman David McNarry appealed people opposed to the event not to attempt to “spark trouble” or disrupt proceedings.