British royal expected to attend 1916 centenary event

Minister Charlie Flanagan stresses international dimension of commemorations

President Michael D Higgins: Idea was first mooted during his State visit to the UK. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

President Michael D Higgins: Idea was first mooted during his State visit to the UK. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A leading member of the British royal family is expected to attend one of the major commemorative events in Ireland in 2016.

There was some controversy when the idea was mooted during President Michael D Higgins’s State visit to the United Kingdom last year but Government sources are still optimistic that it will happen.

“We are not talking about a British royal on the reviewing stand at the GPO on the anniversary of the Rising but about attendance at an appropriate event during the year,” a Government source said at the weekend.

One possible event would be the commemoration of the Irish men who fought at the first battle of the Somme in July 1916.

In April last year in a speech welcoming President Higgins on his State visit, Queen Elizabeth pointed out that Irish people had been involved in all the major campaigns and battles of the first World War.

‘Contribution and sacrifice’

“My family and my government will stand alongside you, Mr President, and your Ministers, throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State. “

This was interpreted at the time as an offer by the British royals to be represented at one of the events in the decade of commemorations of events that led to Irish independence.

In an article in today’s Irish Times Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan hinted at the desire of the Government to facilitate the involvement of leading figures from the UK in the commemorative programme.

“We will need to consider also whether, in terms of the domestic Ireland 2016 programme, there may be events where it will be appropriate to invite our international partners, at a suitable level, to join with us to reflect on the events of 1916 and to mark this key moment on Ireland’s path to independence and place amongst the nations of the world,” said Mr Flanagan.

National commemoration

“However, as a global island, it is important that we mark this very significant centenary with the international friends and partners we have built up over the past one hundred years and who will be vital to us as we embark on our next one hundred.”

Mr Flanagan said it was important not to sanitise the commemorations of the Rising in a way that distorted history nor coat them in saccharine or sackcloth.

“Equally, however, let us seek to ensure that the Ireland 2016 commemorative programme does not become an unnecessarily divisive issue,” he said.

The different traditions on the island of Ireland would have differing historical perspectives on the events of a century ago but it was important to respect the plurality of narratives.