1916 relatives form group to pressure Government over centenary plans

Association grew from increasing concerns family interests were being ignored by State

More than 100 relatives of 1916 combatants met in Dublin yesterday to formalise a pressure group to lobby for inclusion and consultation

on the Easter Rising and other commemoration events.

The 1916 Relatives Association was born from increasing concerns that family interests were being ignored by the State, particularly with regard to invitations for the main 2016 commemoration.

Those present at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin took turns to express their views which in the main reflected concerns they could be omitted from the event, possibly in favour of dignitaries and other officials.

A collective bargaining consensus was reached, with the view the Government could not ignore a well-organised body representing the families who wish to be involved.

The issue of a potential British royal invitation was discussed but a vote to decide their position was deferred.

"I think [today] showed the strength of feeling and it seems to be a consistent theme that the relatives seem to feel ignored or frustrated," said Dave Kilmartin, who started the organisation.

Members of diaspora

The group had also been contacted by members of the diaspora in South Africa, Australia, the US and Europe, and Mr Kilmartin pointed out that those intending to travel home in 2016 required notice.

Una Ó Callanáin, a granddaughter of Michael Mallin, a commander in the Rising, said her uncle Fr Joe Mallin had recently celebrated his 100th birthday in his Hong Kong home and was troubled at the perceived lack of clarity.

“He is not at all happy with what’s going on. He kind of feels that people are being left out,” she said.

The meeting was also attended by the family of Molly O'Reilly from Gardiner Street who, at the age of 14, ran messages back and forth to James Connolly in the GPO.

‘No invitations’

Molly’s daughter Constance, now in her

80s, was at the meeting with her own daughter Clare and granddaughter Carla. “My function here to today is to make sure that my mother who is also here and still alive gets a place at the 1916 commemoration,” said Clare.

Finbar O’Carroll said he wanted to attend to honour his uncle Liam who had fought in the Four Courts.

In 1966, the 50th anniversary, he said he had returned home from England. "The only thing I can remember was that it was on television. There were no invitations, nothing was sent down to the family and I would have loved to have been there. He was a folk hero to me," he said.

“I would hate to see that people who should have a connection are excluded. Numbers-wise it may be very difficult but a representative from each family should be invited.”

In a statement last week, Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, whose department has responsibility for planning the event, said he "would like to see as many as possible of the descendants and relatives of 1916 personnel attend and participate in commemorative events". Relatives have been urged to contact the department with their details.