Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
121. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will report on the preparations for the proposed commemoration of the centenary of a number of significant historical events between 1912 and 1922; if there will be any public consultation on the proposed commemorations; the extent of the involvement of the general public in the commemorations; if he is liaising with the Northern Ireland Assembly, the British Government or the Scottish and Welsh Governments for any of the commemorations; the proposed cost of these commemorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21346/12]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): My Department has responsibility for the development of a commemorative programme for the Decade of Centenaries 2012 to 2022, which will present the economic, social and cultural history of the period, although official consideration at this time is currently being focused on the period 2012 to 2016. The All-Party Oireachtas Consultation Group on Commemorations, of which I am chair, has now met on a number of occasions. This Group recently received a delegation from the Unionist Centenary Council and, at its meeting of May 22nd, it is planned to receive a delegation from Dublin City Council. The Group has also received submissions from a number of other local authorities and groups, and full engagement with these and other interested parties is planned.
An Expert Advisory Group of eminent historians has also been established, which will advise Government and the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on both the overall commemorative programme and on any specific issues which may arise. This Group, chaired by Dr Maurice Manning and supported by Dr Martin Mansergh, will have its second meeting tomorrow (May 2nd). It is expected to consult widely with scholars, with universities, with educational and cultural bodies, with local historical associations and committees, and with individuals, where appropriate. It will seek to encourage original research at local and national level, at all times acknowledging the identities and traditions which are part of the historic story of the island of Ireland and Irish people worldwide.
In addition, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Sovereign Matters, under the Chairmanship of Mr Frank Feighan, TD, is undertaking a study on how best to approach the series of commemorations. I understand that this Committee last met on April 23rd and that a delegation from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund gave presentations in terms of their plans.
To date in 2012, there have been a number of significant centenary commemoration events. In early March, I participated, with my Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, in the launch of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and Heritage Lottery Fund lecture series entitled “Remembering the Future”. In late March, First Minister Peter Robinson visited the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at Iveagh House in Dublin to offer to an invited audience his reflections on Carson’s influence and on Irish Unionism. The centenary of the introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill on April 11th was marked by a commemorative event in Waterford. At this event, the legacy of John Redmond, the Parnellites and the Home Rule Movement was highlighted by expert speakers.
Last week, I was privileged to address a conference of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in Belfast about the Ulster Covenant, the centenary of which will be marked on September 28th of this year. In addition, the county libraries of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan will host exhibitions on the Ulster Covenant, with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Other events planned this year within the ambit of my own Department include the exhibition “Home Rule: Ireland at the Cross Roads 1900-1914”, which will open on May 25th at the Hugh Lane Gallery, the completion of the restoration of Erskine Childers’ yacht, Asgard, and the continuation of the National Library of Ireland’s Europeana World War I collection roadshows. At these roadshows, families from all of Ireland will be afforded the opportunity to contribute artefacts and stories from their family experience of World War I to a pan-European exhibition.
I am very grateful for the support of the Oireachtas Consultation Group and the Expert Advisory Group. I also very much appreciate the contributions and assistance of officeholders from Britain and Northern Ireland to recent commemorative events. I hope to continue and develop these exchanges, particularly with the assemblies of Wales and Scotland, over the course of the Decade of Commemorations. I would like to emphasise my personal welcome for all suggestions and contributions to the development of the commemorative programme. If the Deputies have any particular interests or concerns in this regard, I would be glad to hear from them.
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