Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Ceisteanna — Questions.
Question 10: To ask the Taoiseach if, arising from his recent announcement regarding commemoration of the 1916 Rising, he has plans for an annual ceremony to mark the first meeting of Dáil Éireann in January 1919; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35327/05]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 11, inclusive, together.
Mindful of the fundamental importance of the Rising to the establishment of the State, I believe it is appropriate that commemorative events should be organised to respectfully acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices of past generations and to inculcate an awareness and appreciation in modern Ireland of the events and issues of those times.
As a first initiative, the commemorative parade by the Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann, traditionally organised to take place each Easter at the GPO but in abeyance since 1971, will be restored to the annual calendar. I expect that this parade will reflect the evolved role of the Defence Forces and include significant representation of their service abroad with the United Nations.
The commemorative effort next year and in the following years will be an important part of preparations for the centenary celebrations in 2016. I have established an official working group, chaired by my Department, to consider arrangements for 2006 and 2016. They will address all proposals and suggestions received from Deputies in that consideration.
As history has unfolded, the Rising has become a defining event of modern Ireland. Despite different positions, then and since, on the Rising, it is the legacy of all the people of Ireland at home and abroad. I hope that stimulating consideration of the Rising, its origins and its consequences, will contribute to improved awareness and understanding between all our traditions.
Finally, I do not propose to introduce an annual ceremony in recognition of the first meeting of Dáil Éireann. I believe this would be a matter in the first instance for the House.
Any centenary commemoration of 1916 should be a State event. All parties in this House have members with forefathers who were in the GPO in 1916. Would the Taoiseach accept it was inappropriate to announce a commemoration at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis rather on a national platform?
I thank the Taoiseach for his correspondence and have appointed Deputy Timmins, a former member of the Defence Forces, to participate in his group.
How does the Taoiseach see the ceremony unfolding? Will it be confined to O'Connell Street or will there be a military parade from two specified points?
What is the future for the national day of commemoration in the Royal Hospital which the Taoiseach has attended over the years, or the Fianna Fáil commemoration at Bodenstown?
The Taoiseach could have insisted on this parade many years ago when others claimed to be the true Óglaigh na hÉireann and he had to affirm in the House on many occasions that there was only one Irish Army.
Will it be a State ceremony in its entirety? What proposals have been made thus far? Will consideration be given to the fact that it might clash with St Patrick's Day, depending on the fall of Easter?
It is enormously important that it be an inclusive national commemoration. Everybody, from all parties and none, should be involved in it, as happens in other countries. The Rising was a major event, regardless of the different views people may have on it. Those differences existed then as now but people from all sides of the House have forebears who were deeply involved.
At one time circumstances dictated that the parade be discontinued but it is now appropriate, as we move to an end of violence in the North, confirmed by the announcements that have been made this year which make that crystal clear, to celebrate the event. The arrangements should be as for any State occasion with the appropriate protocols for all parties. It will, however, be based primarily on the organisation of the Defence Forces who have expertise in this area.
St. Patrick's Day coincides with Easter in some years and the committee needs to look at that but the parade should show our respect for what the military do at home and abroad. There was a well worked out agreement here on the national day of commemoration, which superseded a range of other events. This was developed in the 1980s, long after the Easter Sunday parade had stopped and it covered a number of events. All the new traditions, religions and groupings are co-ordinating their activities around the national day of commemoration. That will continue. This year 126 different nationalities have entered the State, representing more than 40 religious faiths, and they want to play a part in the national day of commemoration. We must also show respect for Irish people who fought in wars under different flags. Increasingly Irish people have become more inclusive and that is good. The new military museum should help to build such events.
Already there are many ideas and suggestions for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Some people might say that ten years is a long time for the planning of such an event but to make meaningful decisions it is necessary. Seven years was spent planning for the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966 so it is not that long. The House will look at how we can best commemorate this event in a meaningful way for our young people. These events must be planned and financed. Any project worth its salt takes five or six years from beginning to end so we must start work now.
There have been many suggestions as to how we should commemorate this event. It has been discussed at Cabinet in recent years, particularly earlier this summer, but we did not want to move until we had seen the statements of this year. Otherwise we would not have been able to get into this.
Has the exact format of the State's 1916 commemoration been decided? Will it be held on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday? Will it be in Dublin only or will ceremonies take place in different locations throughout the country? We are anxious to know what the Taoiseach has to say on these questions.
With ceremonies, what other initiatives, if any, is the Taoiseach considering to mark the continuing legacy of all the various strands of Irish activism of the day that took part in the Easter Rising — republicans, socialists, trade unionists, feminists and Irish language activists, to name but a few? Are there ideas arising from those various strands of participants for the commemoration of the legacy of 1916?
I would appreciate the Taoiseach's detailed reply. I concur with Deputy Rabbitte's question on the first Dáil. I look forward to that event being recorded and commemorated. Would it not be a worthy response if both Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Kenny would agree to the Taoiseach's proposal for the participation of MPs from the North in a committee of the entire Dáil? Would that not be an appropriate way to mark the event?
I will not anticipate the recommendations of the working group on commemoration. It will prepare a plan for next year and for a centenary programme that takes account of all the suggestion made. We will leave that to the group.
A number of events are planned. UCD will hold a conference on the issue over Christmas and UCC will hold a conference early in the new year. A commemorative stamp will be issued and there will be commemorations of other military traditions. The Irish dimension in the US, Northern Ireland engagements and commemorations of other traditions are being explored but it is best to leave them to the committee.
Will the Taoiseach ensure maximum support among all Oireachtas Members for the 1916 celebrations? Will he ensure that the voluntary and community sectors are invited to take part? Will he include Independent Deputies in the planning process? In line with the 1916 vision and its core democratic principles, will he implement the recommendations of the Oireachtas joint committee on the inclusion of political representatives from the North in debates in the Oireachtas?
In accordance with the democratic principles outlined in the 1916 proclamation and the need for equality, fair play and justice, will the Taoiseach distance himself from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform's disgraceful attack and comments on the Centre for Public Inquiry and his bandying allegations in a manner totally inappropriate for a Minister in that Department? The Minister's comments on individuals and the Centre for Public Inquiry were a national disgrace and completely at odds with the democratic principles expressed in the 1916 proclamation.
We will, of course, try to ensure the process is as inclusive as possible. It is important that everyone is involved not just in the restarting of the 1916 commemorative parade but in the events that will take place in the period ahead and that they are organised in a thoughtful and useful way.
I should have mentioned that educational scholarships in the names of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising exist already.
Is the Taoiseach not concerned that the initiative to commemorate the 1916 Rising in this fashion has been undermined by his decision to announce it in a partisan way at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis?
The Labour Party is happy to nominate someone to the committee suggested by the Taoiseach but there are other events that might equally be commemorated, upon which we bestow no thought. We in this House are the successors of those who met in the Mansion House in 1919. That act of self-determination is largely ignored while we have various versions of commemoration of 1916. Should that not be taken into consideration?
Does the Taoiseach not agree that it is remarkable that there is no list of those who died in the War of Independence and the Civil War? Would that not be an appropriate method of commemoration, taking action to research such a list of those who lost their lives between 1916 and 1923?
I agree with what the Taoiseach said about 126 nationalities and 40 different faiths. Would he take a leaf from the books of other countries, where independence days are celebrations of where they have arrived and where they are going as well as where they have come from? Will the Taoiseach ensure all political viewpoints are represented on any organising committee as well as other elements of diversity? I will not go into this in detail. Will the Taoiseach set a date by which all parties and Independents will be consulted on this matter?
I do not want to anticipate the group's recommendations. We had a commemoration of the First Dáil and it is a matter for the House if Members wish to do more. We have also examined commemorations of other traditions this year and next year. A number of commemorative events have taken place. A stamp commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme was printed and colours of Irish regiments disbanded in 1922 were returned to the military museum exhibition at Collins Barracks, which included special recognition of Irish soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross. Everything cannot be commemorated in one year but these matters can be examined and brought forward in the upcoming period, beginning next year.