Thursday, 3 November 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
8. Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the extent and nature of the involvement of the Defence Forces in the proposed annual military parade in O’Connell Street, Dublin, to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising; the estimated cost of Defence Forces involvement; the numbers required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32002/05]
Mr. O’Dea: I would first like to outline my satisfaction and that of the Defence Forces for this commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the reintroduction of the traditional Easter military parade. The Cabinet has decided that the theme of the parade will be a celebration of Óglaigh na hÉireann, successors to the Volunteers serving a democratic State engaged, through the United Nations, in the search for global peace.
Following discussions at the Cabinet last July, I brought the proposal to the attention of the chief of staff and he has engaged in some preliminary planning in this regard. Around the same time, there were preliminary discussions at senior level between officials in my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach.
As the Deputy will recall, the Defence Forces staged a highly successful parade through Dublin city in 2001 to mark the return of the last Irish contingent to serve in Lebanon and the experiences from this parade will serve as a basis for the organisation of the Easter parade. The involvement of organisations representing former members of the Defence Forces is also under consideration.
As the Deputy will also appreciate, it is not possible at this early stage to go into detail on the proposed composition, nature, cost etc. of the parade since the Defence Forces are still at a very early stage in this regard. However, based on the experience of organising previous events such as the parade I mentioned, I am informed that an Easter parade is unlikely to entail significant additional expenditure.
Mr. Sherlock: Does the Minister think it appropriate that such a major announcement would be made at such a partisan party political event as the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis? Why was there no consultation with the Opposition about the best way to commemorate the 1916 Rising? Why was this decision taken unilaterally? Will the first meeting of the First Dáil in 1919 be commemorated?
Mr. O’Dea: I must inquire about the second part of the Deputy’s question as I do not have information in that regard. As for the first part of his question, the Deputy asked whether it was right to announce this measure at a partisan political event such as the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis. The Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, like the Labour Party Conference or the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis will always be partisan, and it was a good platform for the announcement.
Mr. O’Dea: The Government assumed that this extremely welcome initiative would be embraced enthusiastically by the Opposition and apart from nitpicking objections to the announcement’s timing and method, by and large it has been welcomed. It will be a great event and, as I told Deputy Timmins previously, it will involve members of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association and the Organisation of National Ex-Service Men and Women, in addition to members of the Permanent Defence Force. Perhaps we will see Deputy Timmins march and we would be delighted to have him.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I welcome the fact the Government has decided to hold the commemoration of the 1916 Rising once again. Has any consideration been given to including more than just the Defence Forces? Is there a community or public aspect to it other than viewing? Has consideration been given to events other than the military parade that the community could take part in, including educational dramas, so that we can make it a proper celebration that all can take part in? Has consideration been given to re-establishing the commemoration committee? It is not in the Minister’s exact remit but it was successful for the 1798 and Famine events. Perhaps this could be a role the Government could consider in respect of commemorating 1916 over the next few years.
Mr. O’Dea: I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for his unqualified support for this. He is not supporting it and then pretending to be upset about how and when it was announced, which I appreciate. We are in the very early stages of preparation. There is an interdepartmental committee consisting of representatives of the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach and that I am sure will include a representative from the military. The suggestions that have been made are useful and I will ensure they are given due consideration at the interdepartmental committee.
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