Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Ceisteanna — Questions
Question 5: To ask the Taoiseach the commemorative events being funded by his Department to mark the founding of the Irish Republican Brotherhood 150 years ago and its influential contribution to Irish republicanism and the history of Ireland since. [8944/08]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 8, inclusive, together.
There are no plans for an official commemoration of the foundation of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, IRB, on its 150th anniversary. I acknowledge the historical significance of the IRB and the influential role of the organisation in the progress towards independence. However, it is not possible for every anniversary to be officially commemorated. The activities of the IRB and its influence on historic events will be a significant element in the centenary commemorations in the years towards 2016. I would welcome initiatives from colleges and academic institutions on this theme during the anniversary year.
An interdepartmental collaboration, led by my Department, is preparing a continuation of the commemoration of the Flight of the Earls on its 400th anniversary, reflecting their progress from Louvain to Rome. Academic and cultural programmes have been developed in co-operation with the embassies of Ireland in Belgium, Strasbourg, Berne and Rome, which I am confident will bring to attention this very significant part of Ireland's historical engagement in Europe. Funding for that commemorative activity is provided from the Vote of the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.
My Department was involved as usual in the annual commemoration of the Easter Rising at the GPO on 23 March and will be involved in the national day of commemoration at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham on 13 July next. It will also assist with the arrangements for other events.
Previous discussion in the House contemplated the inauguration of an annual Famine memorial day and there was a growing consensus on that between the parties. Official consideration was undertaken about how that might be explored further. The assessment had regard both to the specific issues of food security and the general heritage arising through emigration and cultural loss. Several possibilities were identified, some of which could be implemented. We must decide the most appropriate arrangements for such a commemoration. My colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has arranged a commemorative event in Dublin for this Sunday, 25 May 2008 to complement a community event in Dublin marking the great Famine.
Regarding the anniversary of the First Dáil, I recall that the 75th anniversary was marked by a special commemoration. I feel that annual commemoration in the normal course of that first meeting would be more appropriately a matter for the Oireachtas in the first instance.
My supplementary relates to the meeting of the First Dáil. The 90th anniversary of that event will take place next January. To a large extent that event has been overshadowed. Given its significance — it was the first convening of democratically elected representatives of the people to establish the State — will special attention be given to the commemoration of the 90th anniversary next January and, in particular, to promulgating the Democratic Programme of that First Dáil, a document that has been overlooked to a large extent in the passage of time in Irish history?
We have two events commemorating 1916, the Arbour Hill and O'Connell Street events. Is it intended to continue with both of them and in what format? I am aware an internal committee of the Oireachtas is examining the question of the centenary of the 1916 uprising. Is it intended to continue with the events at Arbour Hill and O'Connell Street in their current form or in some amended form?
Is the Taoiseach aware that the all-party committee established to prepare for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016 has not met during the period of this Dáil? Will he arrange a meeting of that committee to be held because there is a significant number of events worthy of commemoration, both for the remainder of this year and in 2009. Some of them have been alluded to but I am disappointed to hear the Irish Republican Brotherhood centenary will not be commemorated because it played a major role in 1916 in preparing and drilling for that event and procuring arms for the armed rebellion against British occupation in this country. The Taoiseach might pass on my views to the committee for consideration rather than simply dismiss it.
In the context of the two national monuments designated last year — the Minister, Deputy Roche, designated 14 to 17 Moore Street and the former Taoiseach the GPO — and the considerable amount of physical work as well as planning required to prepare those sites for the commemoration of the centenary in 2016, will the Taoiseach indicate the steps taken to date or the plans in place? Only eight years remain until the commemoration. Has the Government any plans to properly develop those two national monuments in the context of 2016?
On the first point raised by Deputy Gilmore, as I said it is a matter for the Oireachtas. As it was a Dáil event the Oireachtas should organise it and I would welcome the commemorating of the 90th anniversary of the First Dáil. I recall the 75th anniversary which, if my recollection serves me right, was held in the Mansion House. I believe that is a matter for the Oireachtas to arrange. It is a matter for the Deputies but they will have the support of Government and the Oireachtas in determining the best way of commemorating the 90th anniversary of that very important event.
Regarding Deputy Kenny's question, the current arrangements are that we commemorate at the GPO and at Arbour Hill. I do not know of any reason we should change that. We should continue both events.
Regarding Deputy Morgan's question, the 150th anniversary of the founding of the IRB by James Stephens and others is a matter that will be part of the centenary events related to 2016. I am not dismissing anything. I would welcome initiatives from colleges and academic institutions on this theme during the anniversary year and indeed in the interim.
Regarding Deputy Costello's question, I will ask for a report from the Office of Public Works on its plans. In my view the centenary of 2016 should be commemorated properly and appropriately and the buildings where so much took place should be appropriately prepared. I will have to get a report and talk to the Deputy subsequently about the matter.