Ministers debating how to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising have been told by a leading professor that it should be a ‘shameless celebration’.
The comments from a prominent Irish historian followed concerns that a full celebration of the Rising could be divisive in some communities in Ireland. Some commentators have pointed to the way Loyalist celebrations of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne have led often caused offence and sometimes led to civil unrest in Northern Ireland.
Officials planning next year’s centenary of the Easter Rising want to strike a balance between celebrating the beginning of Irish independence and not appearing aggressive or hostile to other communities.
However, Ronan Fanning, UCD Professor Emeritus of History, said the occasion must be a: “recognition of historical reality.”
He pointed out that many other countries celebrate key dates in their history even though they were often bloody and violent.
He said: “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?
“Does the French government shrink from the annual celebration of Bastille Day notwithstanding the appalling bloodshed of the French Revolution?
“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”.
Fanning added that while: “we may condemn political violence, we cannot dispute that it is an invariable component in wresting independence from colonial powers.
“[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”.
While it is important that there is an appropriate celebration of one of the most important moments in the country’s history, ministers are worried about the potential for trouble and violence.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan told a party conference at Castlebar, Co Mayo: “We cannot allow the centenary commemorations themselves to become a divisive issue.
“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.
“Where the annual marking of a 1690 battle can still lead to violence on the streets, this anxiety should not be surprising or underestimated”.
Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said it was very important that the language used would set the right tone and that 2016 should be a: “commemoration not a celebration”.
However, a speaker from the floor replied: “when you overdo sensitive, you arrive at apology”.
Another speaker suggested that a copy of the 1916 proclamation should be issued to every house in Ireland.