Relatives of those who fought in the Easter Rising have confirmed they will boycott the launch of the Government’s 2016 draft programme event in Dublin’s GPO tonight.
The 1916 Relatives Association, which has some 850 members, says it failed to get satisfactory answers as to what be will in the programme following a private meeting with Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys and her senior officials yesterday afternoon.
The relatives said the Minister clearly demonstrated she had “no understanding as to the plans for 2016” and a senior official from An Taoiseach’s office took over.
However, the relatives claim they were only given a skeleton outline of what will be in the programme and learned more from a report in The Irish Times by political editor Stephen Collins this morning.
“The reports in the media today were a total surprise to us,” says Una McNulty, spokesperson for the association, whose grandfather Peadar McNulty and great-uncle Michael McNulty were in the Four Courts garrison.
She likened efforts to get information on the programme to “sitting in a dentist’s chair getting your teeth pulled”.
Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has accused the Government of treating the details around the 1916 commemorations like the "third secret of Fatima".
Senator Daly said he and the rest of the All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations were “completely in the dark” as to what will be announced this evening.
He said the politicians on the committee will only be briefed on what the Government has planned for 2016 to mark the centenary of the Rising four hours before the official unveiling.
The Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, comprising of historians, will not be briefed on the proposals until an hour and a half before the launch at 8pm.
The proposals will be put out to public consultation after they have been announced this evening.
“It appears that we are not to be consulted; we are to be informed,” Senator Daly said. “What’s the point of having a consultation group if we are not to be consulted well in advance of the announcement? The process of being included is less than clear.”
Senator Daly said the only thing to be confirmed to date has been a series of seven concerts starting on Easter Monday, 2016, each of which will be dedicated to one of the seven signatories of the Rising. They will take place at the National Concert Hall.
He said the consultation group had received submissions from Ashbourne, one of the few places outside Dublin to be involved in the Rising, Kerry County Council, who hope to mark the landing of Roger Casement on Good Friday locally, as well as Kiltyclogher in Co Leitrim, where a summer school is run every year in honour of Proclamation signatory Seán Mac Diarmada.
Senator Daly estimated there were some 150,000 descendants of Rising veterans who could participate in the commemorations, but the problem of how to accommodate them all would have to be addressed.
He suggested the Easter Rising parade be composed of relatives who will each start from the place where their antecedent fought during Easter Week. This would mirror the 50th anniversary commemorations where each Rising veteran started at the place where they fought before converging on the General Post Office.
Tonight’s launch will be attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton and Ms Humphreys, who has direct responsibility for the commemorations.
An international campaign for the 2016 commemorations called Ireland Inspires will also be launched at the event with five themes: Remember, Reconcile, Imagine, Present and Celebrate.
The team charged with devising the programme hopes to engage with communities and relatives throughout the celebrations, as well as with schools, universities, businesses and historical institutions.
The centenary team also seek to tap into the diaspora in an effort to facilitate remembrance of 1916 which also reflects on the present and reimagines the future.