Call to arms for 1916 relatives

Families say they want guarantees over invitations

British soldiers in Dublin during the Rising. The Department of Defence has said it cannot confirm who will be invited to the 1916 GPO commemoration.  Photograph: PA.

British soldiers in Dublin during the Rising. The Department of Defence has said it cannot confirm who will be invited to the 1916 GPO commemoration. Photograph: PA.

Tue, Jun 3, 2014, 01:00

A public meeting is to be held next month to rally families of 1916 combatants over increasing fears they will be left out in the cold during centenary celebrations.

The purpose of the event will be to form the tentatively named “1916 Relatives Action Group”, after a number of families said they had been frustrated in efforts to secure guarantees of invitations.

The uncertainty has been compounded by fears that dignitaries and politicians will be put first.

The expert advisory group established to liaise on the forthcoming commemorations met two weeks ago, and has made the issue of families’ participation a priority.

Other events

Those involved also intend to address other events – like the anniversary of the Howth gun-running next month – and will begin a sustained lobbying campaign with politicians and people of influence.

Dozens of families have been contacted via email to gauge interest in the “non-political” association.

“Collectively as a group we will have more clout and influence if we stick together, as opposed to a few lone voices who likely will be classified as cranks,” the email says.

The Department of Defence has said it cannot confirm who will be invited to the 1916 GPO commemoration.

“One of the big issue . . . is that nobody knows whether they are getting invites or not,” said Dave Kilmartin, a relative of three combatants and agitator for families’ rights, who is among those behind the proposed group.

Play role

Some family members of the 1916 signatories and executed leaders are also expected to play a role. “The general consensus is that families should be taken care of well and above anybody else, whether it’s international dignitaries or politicians.”

Diarmaid Ferriter, UCD historian and member of the advisory committee, who has been outspoken on his concerns over the events, said this was one of the issues surrounding the proposed royal participation in 1916.

“The issue came up [at the last meeting two weeks ago] on the question of relatives because quite a few of them have spoken up about this and they have their right to be concerned about the way in which the ceremonies are going to be co-ordinated and what space will be available for them,” he said.