Fianna Fáil to host its own Easter Rising commemorations next year

Éamon Ó Cuív says party ‘drew its inspiration from the ideals of the Proclamation’

Eamon de Valera, president from 1959 to 1973, under arrest in Richmond Barracks, Dublin,  after the 1916 Rising

Eamon de Valera, president from 1959 to 1973, under arrest in Richmond Barracks, Dublin, after the 1916 Rising

 

Fianna Fáil is to hold its own Easter Rising commemorations next year. A committee has been set up under the chairmanship of Éamon Ó Cuív, the grandson of Éamon de Valera, the only leader of the Rising to escape execution.

Mr Ó Cuív said Fianna Fáil had more links to the 1916 Rising and subsequent revolutionary period than any of the other parties in the State, including de Valera but also Seán Lemass, Seán T O’Kelly and James Ryan.

“Fianna Fáil drew its inspiration from the ideals of the Proclamation,” he said. “It would be logical that an organisation that was so connected to the Rising and the War of Independence would commemorate its own history. Of all the political parties, there is the clearest unambiguous connection between the participants and the subsequent party.

“We have been receiving feedback from people across Ireland and there is a growing consensus that Fianna Fáil must play a leading role in celebrating the centenary. Our work will be focused on developing material and events that explain and bring to life the reality of the Rising, rather than attempting to leverage this great event for party political advantage.”

Mr Ó Cuív chaired the inaugural meeting of the Coiste 1916 Committee this week. The committee has been established by party leader Micheál Martin and is tasked with organising a series of public commemorative events in the lead up to 2016. Fianna Fáil members have been asked to collect oral histories from their families involvement in the revolutionary period.

Mr Ó Cuív said Fianna Fáil was looking at hosting an exhibition of its own memorabilia connected with the Rising. In particular, the great grand-niece of Capt EJ Hitzen has allowed memorabilia relating to de Valera to be hosted as part of an exhibition. Capt Hitzen accepted the surrender of de Valera at Boland’s Mill. They struck up an unusual friendship and a life-long correspondence.

Hitzen was something of a devotee of de Valera and kept correspondence and memorabilia associated with his old foe. The collection includes letters between de Valera and the former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain.

Mr Ó Cuív said he was alarmed by a report in The Irish Times that the Irish language was being relegated in importance in relation to the Easter Rising commemorations. He said the Gaelic League was the “great begetter of 1916. The Irish language was the cement that held the Rising together.”

However, he said the Government’s decision, as seems likely, not to invite the British royal family to the commemorations was correct. “I was fully supportive of the decision to invite the queen to Ireland. It was very successful and we will have no difficulties with visits in the future,” he said. “We were in government when that decision was made, but it would be a total distraction [to invite them to the Easter Rising commemorations]. I’m sure the royal family understand that it would not be the time or the place.”

“It would take away from the centrality of the event. The story would be about the royal family not about those who gave their lives in 1916.”