Flanagan says 1916 events in US must be ‘inclusive’

Minister launches year-long programme of commemorations in New York

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan TD launching the 2016 Centenary Ptogramme in the United States of America   at the Irish consulate in New York. Photograph:  James Higgins

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan TD launching the 2016 Centenary Ptogramme in the United States of America at the Irish consulate in New York. Photograph: James Higgins

 

The centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising in the US must be inclusive and reflect the positive “ever-growing relationship” with the UK, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.

He was speaking in New York after launching a year-long programme of commemorative events to be held across the US to remember the insurrection financed by Irish America.

Remembering 1916 this year in the US would be framed within “the turbulent years of 1912 to 1922 in their entirety” and in a modern context of improved relations with the UK, said Mr Flanagan.

He did not detect any sensitivity around Republican sections of Irish America seeking to lay claim to the legacy of the Rising, he said.

“Ireland is a very rich tapestry of who we are and where we came from,” he said. “It is important, of course, that the facts be recorded but in the context of what is a very warm and positive relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland.”

More than 200 political, economic and cultural events will take place across the US during this year’s commemorations.

The centrepiece will be an Irish arts festival from May 17th to June 5th at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC where the Abbey Theatre and artists such as The Gloaming and dancer Jean Butler and will perform.

There will also be a literary programme in the festival featuring writers such as Colum McCann, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín.

The Abbey Theatre will tour Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars across the US and Notre Dame University in Indiana will hold the premiere of its film, The Irish Rebellion.

Mr Flanagan reminded an audience at the Irish consulate in New York of the strong connections between Ireland and the US, and the support and inspiration offered by America to the 1916 revolutionaries.

“It is highly appropriate to have this launch here in New York because no other city, no country, played a more important role in the Easter Rising and the subsequent journey of one hundred years for a lasting, just and peaceful settlement than the United States of America,” he told members the Irish community in Manhattan.

Thomas Clarke, the first person to sign the 1916 Proclamation, was an American citizen and five of the signatories spent time in the US that “deeply influenced their thinking, their motives and their actions,” he said.

Before reading from his novel This Side of Brightness at the launch, New York-based novelist Colum McCann said that the commemorations provided an “opportunity to re-proclaim who we are.”

“It is a programme that expands the lungs of our culture,” he said. “Instead of just looking backwards, which would be the temptation of so many, we are also going to look forward.”

Irish ambassador to the US Anne Anderson said that the US commemorations, like the American presidential elections falling this year too, were an opportunity for people to say: “This is who we are.”

“This is Ireland at its best, not perfect, not airbrushed but a country of abiding values, endless questing, unsurpassed talent and extraordinary achievements,” she said.