Decade of centenaries must respect all factions
OPINION:The years 1912-1922 were filled with complex and important events. As we mark these moments, we must be inclusive of Ireland’s diverse sons and daughters
There has been some debate about the appropriateness of the Government’s approach to the “Decade of Centenaries”. Those against suggest that by remembering so many events the importance of the Easter Rising may be diminished in some way. The celebrations and commemorations will culminate in early 2022 by remembering the achievement of independence.
Undoubtedly, the centenary of Easter 1916 will be celebrated as a highlight.
Why is it important to commemorate so much else in this period of our history? The recent murder in Co Armagh of prison officer David Black and the magnificent call for no retaliation by his widow, Yvonne, is a most compelling reason why these commemorations and celebrations must not alienate and must be inclusive.
The attempted murder of a PSNI officer outside MLA Naomi Long’s constituency office is another. The exasperation of Pol Ó Muirí (Opinion Analysis, December 13th) that loyalists still turn to violence because they don’t get their own way is another. Billy Hutchinson’s exasperation on Morning Ireland that he now feels like a second-class citizen is yet another.
Hutchinson enunciated his position that Northern Ireland is a region within the UK and that he felt part of 64 million citizens and not just a community of 900,000. He pleaded for the Peace Process to be reinvigorated and declared violence had no place in the pluralist, multicultured society he wished for.
The peace in Northern Ireland is fragile. The commemorations and celebrations in the decade of centenaries will not make the peace there but, if presented in a partisan manner, they could break the peace. The Republic must do all it can to support the Peace Process in Northern Ireland. The decade of centenaries gives us an unparalleled opportunity to show that we are a mature, pluralist and multicultured society.
The decade 1912-1922 is a complex period in our history. Perhaps nowhere else is that complexity so ably demonstrated as in Glasnevin Cemetery. Let’s look at two examples. Here you can see the Irish Volunteer headstone of Edward Ennis who died on April 27th, 1916, in Fairview of gunshot wounds aged 20. Beside him in the next grave is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone of Patrick Dunn who served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He died from wounds received in France at Cork Street Hospital aged 19 on June 30th, 1916. Both these graves are juxtaposed to the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Royal Irish Constabulary plots.
Or you could visit the Neilan family grave where brothers Gerald and Arthur are buried. Both went to Clongowes Wood College. On the morning of April 24th, 1916, the two brothers awoke and dressed in their respective military tunics. That day they would both hold rifles and fire upon the enemy.
They would both watch as the city of Dublin became a battleground. One would die in the uniform of the king of England while the other would hold out with the rebels until surrender came six days later.