British royal to attend 1916 ceremonies

Government to invite a senior member of British royal family to Rising anniversary

The Government will invite a senior member of the British royal family to attend commemorations in Dublin in two years to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

The diplomatic move was a highlight of the second day of President Michael D Higgins’s highly successful state visit to Britain.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed Queen Elizabeth’s “endorsement” for a royal presence at the GPO commemoration, though final decisions will not be a taken for at least a year.

However, he said he was “very pleased” to hear the queen’s declaration that “my family and government” would “stand alongside” Ireland during the upcoming commemorations.


Room for manoeuvre
Both Dublin and London are leaving room for manoeuvre about the details and whether an invitation would include a place at the main GPO commemoration itself.

Ministers would work with “authentic historians”, Mr Kenny said, before deciding what events “might be appropriate for the royal family to attend”.

The prospect of a royal attendance was first put forward last September in a speech to the British Irish Association in Cambridge by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Signalling the depth of agreement between Dublin and London, British foreign secretary William Hague said “all” of the anniversaries had to be marked “in a way that helps to bring people together”.

On the second day of his state visit yesterday, the President addressed the Royal Society, met Irish people working in the National Health Service at a London hospital, and had lunch with British prime minister David Cameron.

Last night, in a speech to business leaders in the Guildhall, Mr Higgins said Ireland and Britain “both recognise, and celebrate” the boundless possibilities that could lie ahead.

“We have seen in one generation the unimaginable becoming reality,” he told the 700 guests, adding that relations between the two countries had been transformed.

Mr Cameron said before hosting lunch for Mr Higgins that it was “a real privilege” to be in office “when Anglo-Irish relations are on such an up”.

Much of the British media’s coverage of the first day of the State visit was dominated by the presence of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness at Tuesday’s night dinner held in Windsor Castle.

However, the Taoiseach was unapologetic – despite the anger of IRA victims and relatives, including former Conservative minister Norman Tebbit, who hoped McGuinness would be “shot in the back”.

“You cannot have a block of politics anchored in the past that does not allow for the next generation to move ahead,” said Mr Kenny.

“The job has to be finished by those who have responsibility.”

Final decisions
The final decisions about the Easter Rising commemorations will have to be taken by Mr Kenny, even though the next general election could have happened before they take place.

The Dáil must dissolve by March 6th, 2016, with an election no more than 30 days later – though Easter Sunday is early that year, so, technically, the commemorations could take place during the campaign.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times