Royals unlikely to attend 1916 Rising ceremonies

Presence could be distraction and security concern at 100th anniversary milestone

The Government has said it is now “extremely unlikely” a member of the British royal family will attend the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Easter 1916 Rising next year.

The change of position was decided at a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on commemorations last Monday at which there was agreement in principle that given the nature of the event it would be better not to invite the Royal family to the Easter Week events.

The decision was confirmed by Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has special responsibility for the centenary of commemorations and is also vice-chair of the all-party committee on commemorations.

“It’s extremely unlikely that there will be a royal presence for events on O’Connell Street and the GPO,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.


Security dimension

He said that the issue had the potential to be a distraction that would take away from the events and would also involve a security dimension.

“As we get closer, my concern (and it is shared by others) is that it will take up an inordinate amount of time, space and debate.

“If all we are doing is debating the presence or otherwise of a member of the British royal family within the GPO it would be a distraction,” he said.

Mr O Ríordáin said in one sense it was a shame that Ireland was not in the position of other European countries where they can hold commemorative events in the presence of heads of state of other countries, including former foes. He instanced some of the commemorations in Belgium to mark the 100th anniversary of key battles in the first World War.

He said Ireland was not yet in that position.

The Minister of State said it was his understanding that there was a recognition from the British government of the sensitivities involved.

"I understand there is no indication that they will be offended by any eventuality where the Royal family was not present at events." Protocol During the State visit of President Michael D Higgins to England last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, when asked, that he would like to see Queen Elizabeth visit Ireland as part of the events surrounding the commemoration of 1916.

He added there was a protocol attached to it.

On the same visit, then Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the possibility of members of the Royal family participating in the 1916 events was something that had been discussed before.

However, the position came under strong criticism in Ireland from both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, as well as from descendants of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.

The broad agreement reached by the Cabinet sub-committee last Monday may draw a line under the controversies and criticisms faced by the government during 2016 over the direction and preparedness of its plans to commemorate the Rising.

There are also two major events in 2015 which are germane to the Decade of Centenaries: they are the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli as well as the 100th anniversary of the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa, where Patrick Pearse gave the graveside oration.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times