Tánaiste says Glasnevin memorial wall should be finished

Commemorations will remember everybody who died ‘irrespective of uniform’, says Taoiseach

The Glasnevin wall, which is intended to mark all of those who died between the Easter Rising in 1916 and the Civil War, should be finished, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has declared, following a series of attacks.

The wall has been under tarpaulin since February of last year when attackers used sledgehammers to remove the names of some British soldiers killed in the Rising. In doing so, they also damaged the names of some Irish Volunteers.

Speaking at the launch of the next chapter in the Decade of Centenaries commemorations, Mr Varadkar said he understood the wall was controversial and that it was unique in the world in remembering all those who died.

“Some people say we shouldn’t do that because no other country in the world has done it. I think we should it exactly because no other country in the world will do it and we are the ones who are mature enough on an island of almost seven million people, almost a million of whom are British and many who are both British and Irish, and they didn’t see the British army as an occupying force.


‘Different tradition’

“They saw it as their army whereas those of us who come from a different tradition did see it as an occupying force. The fact that we could be the first country in the world to embrace our history in such a way is a real statement about the future that we could have on a shared island,” he declared.

Defending the Government's programme of commemorations, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it would not be deflected by the controversy over the abandoned Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) event in January last year.

The commemorations would remember everybody who died in the Irish revolution “irrespective of uniform”, he said, in a programme that “respects the loss of human life on all sides”. Later, he said: “I think we need to stand back from the condemnatory approach that certain people have.”

The Glasnevin necrology wall, based on one in France that commemorates French and German dead in the first World War, was first damaged in April 2017 when paint was thrown over it. The paint was removed by cemetery staff, but gold inlay lettering came away, too.

Last year’s attack

A new security camera was installed, but it failed to prevent last year’s attack, which led to it being covered up. The original plan said the names of approximately 5,000 killed between 1916 and 1923 would be engraved, whether Irish combatants, British forces or civilians.

Since the series of attacks, the wall has not been updated with any names from the War of Independence and its future is uncertain as many have objected to the names of British forces being included.

A State commemoration to mark the Truce which ended the War of Independence on July 11th, 1921 in line with the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations recommendation that there should be only one event.

Saying the role of women should be better remembered, Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said: "I want one of these legacies to be a greater understanding of and appreciation for the role that women played in shaping the narrative of this revolutionary period.

“Women were not just background figures supporting some of the more well-known people of this time, but influenced events in their own right as revolutionaries, politicians, thinkers, humanitarians, law-makers, campaigners, strategists, soldiers, administrators and disrupters,” she went on.

What is planned for the Decade of Centenaries?

* The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland online will be launched in June next year. Many millions of words from destroyed documents will be linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts and other records scattered among the collections both in Britain and Ireland.

* The 20th Century History of Ireland galleries will be permanently located at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks and will coincide with the centenary commemorations to mark the foundation of the Irish Free State. The exhibition will open in 2023 and will cover the years from 1912 - 1923.

* There will also be two new exhibitions curated by the National Museum and the National Archives to mark the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. They are due to open in November and December 2021 respectively.

* The National Museum's exhibition, 'Studio and State: The Laverys and the Anglo-Irish Treaty' exhibition will be curated in collaboration with The Hugh Lane Gallery.

*The National Archives is curating a significant exhibition to commemorate the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6th, 1921.

* Mná 100, a dedicated resource to highlight the role of women in the period 1921-1923 is being launched by the department in May 2021. This project involves collaborative initiatives highlighting women’s participation in political, military, professional and domestic roles during this period.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times