The Easter Rising centenary celebrations next year will be an ‘Irish only’ affair, with the government only inviting ambassadors based in Ireland.
It is a decision that will put an end to the possibility of members of the British royal family attending the commemorations.
Relations between Ireland and Britain have improved in recent years with Ireland welcoming both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles to the country this decade. The Queen has also welcomed Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins to Britain.
Last year the government launched its programme of events to mark the Easter Rising centenary called ‘Ireland 2016’.
The Irish government had considered inviting a member of the British royal family to the centenary commemorations.
However, after the plans were criticised by opposition parties and relatives of the Easter Rising rebels, it was decided that a royal visit could be a ‘distraction’.
While Irish and British leaders have made a number of efforts in the past few years to improve relations between the two countries, royal presence at the Easter Rising centenary would still be divisive and controversial.
The Irish Independent obtained a number of email exchanges between the government and the British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott.
An email, sent in March to Mr Chilcott outlined the government’s ‘public line in response to any question about inviting high-level visitors to the core Easter 2016 events’.
It said: “The events in the Ireland 2016 State ceremonial programme will be moments for national commemoration.
“Therefore high level representatives of Ireland’s international partners will not be in attendance at these Easter events although as is normal for many State Ceremonial events, members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Ireland may be invited to particular events.”
The government’s decision to hold ‘Irish only’ celebrations will address the concerns of people who do not want the royals in attendance, without causing too much embarrassment to the British.
However, another email revealed that Mr Chilcott described the centenary plans as a “labour of Hercules”, suggesting he felt that they were intended as a punishment for the British.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that Mr Chilcott’s comments were meant as a joke and “I wouldn’t read too much into it”.
There will also be another series of events later in the year – the Ireland 2016 Global and Diaspora Programme – that will involve international partners.
The FCO released a statement saying: “Her Majesty’s government is committed to working closely with the Irish government during the decade of centenaries marking the events of 1912 – 1922 to promote a greater understanding of our shared history, and to do so in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.”