How about a bouncy GPO for 2016?

With the centenary of the Rising approaching, the only thing certain is that it’s going to get messy

We’re getting so close to the 1916 centenary you can almost smell the enormous argument approaching. One of the enormous arguments, at least. So far we’ve seen only a few scuffles, but even they have been enough to block up an opinion page or three.

This week it was about the Government's delay in releasing any details of the plans. Last month it was John Bruton asking if the Rising was necessary. A few months ago the debate was about inviting British royals to any ceremony. Throughout there is the years-long row about what to do with Moore Street.

And each one is a reminder that, as the sand runs out, we still haven’t a clue what’s planned for 2016. When we finally find out it will be tin-helmet time.

Not that there haven't been meetings. There's an advisory group of historians and an Oireachtas consultation group. Between them there are 21 people to offer views on a programme of commemorations from 2012 to 2022.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, the Gaeltacht and Pretty Much Everything Else that Attracts the Angriest Letters, is the most important voice in these plans. She's dropping only vague hints that she knows what's going to happen.

Even then each statement sounds like a question to gauge public response. The Gathering did okay, so she suggests that "we could look at a similar model for 2016 because it is a huge event in our history". Even that only picked up on a Tourism Ireland suggestion, which itself contained the caveat that, although the diaspora might have some interest, the Rising isn't an easy sell to the rest of the world.

So, after three years of meetings, all we know is that the Minister in charge of the whole thing is kind of half thinking that something that worked before might be, you know, kind of like the thing that might work again.

At least Jimmy Deenihan's flyers had a core to them. As Humphreys's predecessor he suggested using the Bank of Ireland on College Green as a cultural centre, an idea that seems to have evaporated.

What else? There is the all-party consultation group’s suggestion of a Republic Day – basically a day off for the country. Hardly a novel idea, but the Minister says she hasn’t considered it too much. Possibly because she’s too busy half-considering other top-of-the-head ideas.

In the meantime, members of the consultation group have complained about the lack of detail. The plans are “like the Third Secret of Fatima”, according to the Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan.

Sen Mark Daly has been grumbling, too. His big idea is that every school in the State gets a slate replica of the Proclamation. How will these be paid for? By the schools themselves, of course. Schools will raise the cash by selling little badges. Each school would sell 369 badges, at €2 each, to cover the cost of one proclamation for their school.

"Moreover, with the average school size in Ireland containing 159 students, if every student were to sell 5 badges costing €2 each, it would raise €1,590 per school. This would fund their own school proclamation as well as another separate proclamation for their community."

His proposal even has a note on slate. “It is not a porous stone like limestone, etc . . . Porous stones get dirty over time.”

If you’re going to come up with a fantastic idea to waste everyone’s time, you might as well plan out every last detail.

The consultation group is heavily populated – 12 politicians in all – so everyone has to say something, each from their own political perspective and probably at some length.

Meanwhile, the new Minister can treat the whole thing like a fizzing stick of dynamite that she has just been asked to mind. The result, she said this week, is that a draft plan will be drawn up “shortly” and then put out to public consultation.

And, increasingly, it is becoming clear. The arguments, invisible planning, and delays will continue until about three months before the anniversary itself, whereupon a programme will be announced, someone will resign, a new programme will be announced and we’ll muddle through as usual. shegarty@irishtimes.com @shanehegarty

READ MORE