Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Further to my response on this subject on 12 April, I have recently written to party leaders regarding the re-establishment of the Oireachtas consultation group in relation to the commemorative programme for the centenary anniversaries in the period to 2016. Subject to the responses received, I hope the group will be re-established in the coming weeks. I am aware of the keen interest in the Oireachtas and of members of the public in the development of the commemorative programme.
In addition to the centenary programme, commemorations of other notable events will be organised or assisted by my Department. These include the annual Great Famine commemoration in May by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the annual Daniel O’Connell commemoration in May in association with the Glasnevin Trust and the annual July Somme commemoration in association with the Royal British Legion. Prominent among the possibilities under consideration are the centenary of the Titanic voyage in 2012 and the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf in 2014. I would be grateful to receive suggestions from Deputies with regard to other occasions of national significance they would recommend for consideration.
Deputy Micheál Martin: The Department of the Taoiseach is, by and large, the lead Department for commemorations. A significant distinction has been drawn between permanent State commemorations such as that at Arbour Hill and once-off programmes such as the Famine and 1798 commemorations. Our commemorations have been successful because they have not been partisan or tribal but have commemorated broad national movements. I am sure it is the Taoiseach’s intention to maintain this policy and approach. The 1916 and National Day of Commemoration events are valuable. Recent events have demonstrated the significant degree of public interest and engagement in such commemorations. The 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising is a good illustration of such interest.
My party has received correspondence from the Taoiseach on nominees for the consultation group. We have made a decision in the matter which we will forward to the Taoiseach. Has he considered the possibility of handing over responsibility for the entire commemoration agenda to the Oireachtas for it to work and deliberate on?
The Taoiseach: I confirm to Deputy Martin that it is the Government’s intention and the intention of my Department that these commemorations should first be discussed in a broad sense, should be sensitive and should be co-operative, where that is appropriate. I look forward to receiving responses from other party leaders as to who they wish to nominate to the consultative group. I assure the Deputy it will be as broad and generous as can be. I have no particular aversion to Deputy Finian McGrath, himself a well-known veteran of battles of Clontarf, being able to assist in respect of renewed energy in 2014 and I shall convey the Deputy’s interest in that regard to him.
Deputy Micheál Martin: It has been mentioned previously in the House that because of the sensitive nature of some of the aforementioned commemorations in the context of an all-island dimension, interests from Northern Ireland should be involved in the consideration of how to go about commemorating a number of significant events in the history of the island, the anniversaries of which are falling due. Contact should be made, perhaps through the Oireachtas consultation committee and other means, with a variety of interests from different traditions on the island of Ireland to have their input on the shape and design of such commemorations. For example, the centenary of the Titanic offers a useful opportunity for an all-island approach.
The Taoiseach: Yes, I will give consideration to an appropriate appointment in respect of Northern Ireland. Obviously, the Ulster centenary committee consultation report was published and there were invitations to be associated with that. There may be a number of commemorations in which there might be a genuine willingness to have a joint commemoration and were that the case, that is fair enough. Others may seek individual commemorations to take place in a different way but the Government will take on board all the points from the different parties in the hope of putting together a series of appropriate, relevant and sensitively arranged commemoratives ceremonies. I believe that covers the point raised by the Deputy.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Fáiltím roimh ath-eagrú choiste an Oireachtais do chomóraithe stairiúla chun comóradh céad bliana a dhéanamh ar féin rialú a bhaint amach. Tá mé an-sásta leis sin agus fuair mé litir an Taoisigh maidir leis. Tá a fhios againn, ar ndóigh, go bhfuil an gnó sin fós le baint amach. I welcome the re-establishment of the Oireachtas consultation group on centenary commemorations. I seek further detail on what form the consultations to which the Taoiseach referred will take. Will this be truly national? Will there be an all-island or all-Ireland input? Will such events include the Ulster Covenant of 1912, the 1913 lockout in Dublin and Waterford or the Proclamation yet to be achieved? Will the Taoiseach raise these matters with the First and deputy First Ministers?
I am sure the Taoiseach will have noted that the elections have just taken place in the North and will wish to join in commending all the parties, the Sinn Féin party in particular, on their success in that area. Will the Taoiseach put in place arrangements to involve representatives from the Assembly, civic society and the diaspora in the consultation group? It is not enough simply to commemorate all these events. Many of them were glorious failures or defeats. At some time, someone will commemorate the bailout——
Deputy Gerry Adams: ——and how the Government lost that battle. I seek to examine these past events to gain an understanding and appreciation for the future because these events, particularly those which are part of the radical republican national tradition, are all about the future and we should learn lessons and move forward on that basis.
The Taoiseach: Tá a fhios agam go raibh an Teachta gnóthach le cúpla lá leis na toghcháin ó Thuaidh agus nach raibh sé i láthair anseo. As the Deputy said when he asked me the question whether there would be all-Ireland representation, he has not been behind the fence, at least on this occasion, in saying he represents an all-Ireland party. On the last occasion the previous Taoiseach nominated the Minister for Defence as chairman of the consultation group which included Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, the new Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Joe Costello of the Labour Party, Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh from Sinn Féin and Deputy Michael Lowry as an Independent. At the time the Green Party was satisfied that the Minister for Defence would ably represent its views on the consultation group. From that point of view, all of the issues raised by Deputy Gerry Adams and the range of incidents or events that should be commemorated can be discussed by the consultation group. We put in place a strategy to deal with this. On the last occasion, when dealing with the restoration of the Asgard, renovations at Arbour Hill and Glasnevin, the refurbishment of St. Enda’s Park and the Military Archives, there was a co-ordinated, full and generous response from the members of the consultation group. I hope those nominated on this occasion will do the same in respect of the many events that have to be commemorated in the coming years.
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