Don’t let minority stuck in past take over 1916 events
Opinion: Public backing for royal participation in centenary is a welcome sign
‘The poll showed that even among Sinn Féin voters, who might be expected to be most suspicious about inviting a British royal to an event so central to the party’s identity, there is a clear majority in favour.’ Above, volunteers clearing debris in Dublin after the Easter Rising. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
The peevish reaction in some quarters to the Government’s proposal to invite a member of the British royal family to attend the 1916 commemorations is not shared by most Irish people, going on the findings of the latest Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI poll.
The fact that an overwhelming majority of people from all social backgrounds and all political persuasions would like a royal to attend the commemorations is a welcome sign that the desire for a strong, healthy relationship with our nearest neighbour is not confined to the political and official classes.
The poll showed that even among Sinn Féin voters, who might be expected to be most suspicious about inviting a British royal to an event so central to the party’s identity, there is a clear majority in favour.
The party leadership’s responsible and nuanced approach to the issue has clearly played a part in shaping public sentiment on the matter. The attitude displayed by a majority of the electorate, in contrast to the carping of some commentators, is a welcome sign most people in this State now feel confident enough about their independence and identity to give expression to the warm relationship we actually have with our nearest neighbour.
After all, other countries which engaged in far more brutal conflicts in the more recent past have shown an ability to put bitterness behind them. The European Union is the ultimate testament to the desire of former enemies to work peacefully together for the greater good.
If the governments of the Allied countries which defeated Nazi Germany could invite German chancellor Gerhard Schröder to the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy in 2004, surely it is long past time the Anglo-Irish quarrel is relegated to the pages of history.
An invitation to the royal family and a member of the British government to join us in celebrating Irish independence would be a small thing by comparison.
Sadly, those who cling to a warped version of history are still trying to pursue the objective of a united Ireland by violence in clear defiance of the wishes of the majority of people on both parts of this island.
The presence of a royal representative at some event in the 1916 commemoration programme would personify the desire of the
majority of Irish people to put the negative aspects of the past relationship between the two islands behind them and concentrate on the things we have in common.
Complexity of the relationship
It will also enable the complexity of the relationship which always existed between the two islands, despite simplistic nationalist and unionist narratives, to be formally acknowledged. In a speech to the British Irish Association in Cambridge last September in which the proposed royal invitation to the 1916 commemoration was first mooted, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore hit the nail on the head.