Taoiseach reinstates 1916 Easter Parade past the GPO
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has announced the reinstatement of the traditional 1916 Easter Parade involving the Army marching past Dublin's GPO, in an attempt to reclaim traditional republicanism from Sinn Féin, writes Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent in Killarney.
To enthusiastic applause at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis last night, Mr Ahern declared that this annual parade - discontinued after 1970 - will take place again every year.
"The Irish people need to reclaim the spirit of 1916, which is not the property of those who have abused and debased the title of republicanism," he said.
The PD Ministers in Government are also strongly backing the initiative, but Fine Gael and Labour said last night that they would have expected to be consulted about such a matter, and they had not been.
A PD spokesman said last night: "The Government, including the Progressive Democrats, are very anxious that 1916 would be properly commemorated and not allowed to be hijacked by Sinn Féin and the IRA." From next Easter, the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the Government intends that there will be a large-scale military parade through Dublin, along O'Connell Street and past the GPO, the focal point of the 1916 Rising.
The Government's move to reclaim traditional republicanism comes amid concern in Fianna Fáil in particular that Sinn Féin will make further electoral gains at its expense at the next general election. In a pointed rejection of IRA claims to be the successors of the men and women of 1916, the Taoiseach said the Defence Forces are "the only legitimate army of the Irish people . . . the true successors of the volunteers". He received a sustained round of applause after this remark.
The spirit of 1916 is "our State's inheritance. We must protect it from those who will abuse it and from the revisionists who would seek to denigrate it".
A large-scale Easter military parade used to take place each year to commemorate 1916, but has not taken place since the year after the eruption of the Northern conflict in 1969. There was a small parade outside the GPO in 1991 to mark the Rising's 75th anniversary.
Mr Ahern emphasised Fianna Fáil's particular claim to be the true inheritors of the spirit of 1916.
"Since its foundation, Fianna Fáil has rightly commemorated the heroic struggle of the men and women of 1916. But it is now time that we suitably recognise the self-sacrifice of our forebears. Many of those who fought in 1916 became the founding members of our party. We all know the names of de Valera and Markievicz. We are also the party of Pádraig Pearse's mother and sister." Signalling that this initiative was designed to challenge Sinn Féin's claim to a monopoly on traditional republicanism, the Taoiseach said the spirit of 1916 was "not the property of those who have abused and debased the title of republicanism".
He also announced that he would set up a "1916 Centenary Committee" for a major celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rising in 2016. "A one-day commemoration is not enough. We need to reflect our esteem for the men and women of 1916 in a more permanent way."