The Irish Times view: Where’s the plan for coming centenaries?

Government has not unveiled programme for second half of decade of State commemorations

The aftermath of the War of Independence: the 100th anniversary of its opening shots falls on January 21st.  File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The aftermath of the War of Independence: the 100th anniversary of its opening shots falls on January 21st. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The first half of the decade of centenaries has been an unqualified success. The public has enjoyed a series of commemorations which have illuminated the past in an inclusive manner and brought home to a new generation the nature of the sacrifices made by their ancestors as this State struggled to be born.

The period was remembered in a fully rounded way, including those who died in the first World War and the achievements of the Irish parliamentary tradition as well as the terrible beauty that was the 1916 Rising. In many ways that was the easy part. The challenge for the second half of the decade will be to find an appropriate way of marking events that included not just the first Dáil and the establishment of an independent state but shocking violence and the deep divisions that led ultimately to civil war.

A number of events to commemorate the first Dáil have already taken place and they will culminate on the 100th anniversary on January 21st, a day that also saw the opening shots of War of Independence at Soloheadbeg. The establishment of the Northern Ireland parliament and the partition of the island into two states will also demand a sensitive approach to commemoration on both sides of the Border.

It is about time the Government gave it the priority it deserved and published a detailed list of events for 2019 to 2023

Acknowledging all these events appropriately should not be a problem as the Irish public has already shown it can mark the important events of 100 years ago with understanding as well as pride.

One serious problem is that the Government has not yet unveiled its programme for the second half of the decade. The guidance provided by the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations was vital for the first stage and it sent its detailed advice on how to handle the next stage to the Government some months ago.

So far, however, that report has been gathering dust. It is about time the Government gave it the priority it deserved and published a detailed list of events for 2019 to 2023 along with advice to local authorities and communities about how best to go about arranging local initiatives.

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