The Dublin government stands accused of planning to celebrate the partition of Ireland, following comments made by Fine Gael’s controversial Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at his party’s annual conference last weekend.
Speaking at an event to discuss his government’s plans to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Flanagan said “Northern Ireland” will have “its own centenary”, and that “it is in our mutual best interests to work closely together to respecting each others’ key commemorations”.
Ireland was divided along a crude sectarian border in 1921 as an outcome of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The imposition of partition was enforced by a British military ultimatum and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland. It spawned the Irish Civil War in which thousands died. It also led to the unionist domination of the Six Counties, a nightmare for the nationalist people and one which continues to this day.
Flanagan’s comments came as historians and his own party members heaped criticism on him for shying away from the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the seminal event in the Irish independence struggle.
There should be a “shameless celebration” of the Easter Rising centenary whatever government is in power in 2016, UCD Professor of history Ronan Fanning said at the conference’s ‘fringe’ discussion.
In the 1976 celebration of the 200th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, “did the American government shrink from the bicentenary of the decisive moment in the birth of the United State because that state was born out of war,” he asked.
“Does the French government shrink from the annual celebration of Bastille Day notwithstanding the appalling bloodshed of the French Revolution?”
He said “we should insist that whatever government will be in power, must unwaveringly lead the nation at home and abroad in unabashed celebration of the seminal moment in the birth of the Irish Republic”.
However much “we may condemn political violence we cannot dispute that it is an invariable component in wresting independence from colonial powers”.
In an address at a debate on Ireland 2016, he said the fact “that the birth certificate of this State, in common with that of so many other states, is stained with blood must not mean that 2016 cannot be an occasion for shameless celebration”.
Minister Flanagan warned however that “we cannot allow the centenary commemorations themselves to become a divisive issue”.
He told the discussion in Castlebar, County Mayo that “there is a nervousness across many political representatives and community leaders in the North about the centenary of the Rising and how it will be commemorated”.
But pne speaker from the floor responded that “when you overdo sensitive, you arrive at apology”.
Another said the party had been on the “back foot” in its approach to 2016 and needed to take ownership of it.
One speaker from the floor criticised the lack of action on a pledged restoration of Teach an Phiarsaigh in Rosmuc in Connemara, the birthplace of executed 1916 martyr Padraig Pearse.
He said not a sod had been turned on the site and it might not be completed by the end of the decade of commemorations “never mind by the end of 2016”.
Meanwhile, a group of republicans have launched independent plans for a parade through Belfast to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
Organisers hope those taking part in what is being billed as ‘The People’s Parade’ will set aside differences for the event on the calendar date of the rising, April 24, 2016.
The parade plan was revealed at a launch event in Conway Mill. Organisers say they want to recreate a substantial parade which took place through west Belfast in 1966 to mark the 50th anniversary.
All branches of republicanism and nationalism have been invited to take part in the parade, which is designed to include those both those opposed tp and supportive of the Good Friday and St Andrew’s Agreements of 1998 and 2006.
One of the organisers, Sean Cahill, who is an ex-republican prisoner and nephew of former IRA leader Joe Cahill, said the parade will not be dominated by any grouping.
“Each of us involved in this group come from an Irish republican back-round, and our affiliations are varied. However, we have agreed that all personal politics remain outside the room and that it is more important to do the right thing in honour of our brave forefathers,” he said.
“We have just one aim for 2016 to organise and bring to fruition one parade that everyone who regards themselves Irish republican may have ownership of.
“This commemoration will have no party political domination, in fact there will be no political speeches, other than recreation of those from our history of 1916.”
Mr Cahill said it is hoped that the GAA and other cultural organisations will back the parade plan.
He said relatives of some executed 1916 leaders support the parade plan.
“We also invite other relatives to come and join with us. We would be honoured with your presence,” he said.
“But the most important thing is that the ordinary people get on board and help make this a day worthy of those who gave so much.”