The President and John Redmond symposium

 

Sir, – I refer to recent articles in The Irish Times which contain a number of misrepresentations about President Michael D Higgins in relation to a symposium on John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Writing of that symposium, Stephen Collins stated that the President’s inability to attend the symposium, which was for purely logistical and diary reasons, constituted a “refusal . . . to formally acknowledge the contribution of those who sought to achieve independence by peaceful, constitutional methods” (Opinion & Analysis, March 8th). This assertion is simply untrue. The President did not refuse to provide such acknowledgement and has spoken on many occasions about the role and historical contribution of the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond and his predecessors. Many of these speeches were covered by The Irish Times.

Stephen Collins went on to further state that “The President was notable by his absence from the State’s formal acknowledgement of the contribution of Redmond and by extension the entire constitutional nationalist tradition, to the achievement of Irish independence.”

It should be made clear that this was not a formal State event. The symposium was organised by the National University of Ireland as part of their commemorations programme, funded by Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and it was from the university that the invitation and all correspondence was received.

It had also been suggested in a previous report by The Irish Times that it was regrettable that the President had not attended the planned John Redmond events in Wexford. President Higgins did not receive invitations to any such events and would have attended, and remains interested in attending these events, should his diary commitments allow. The President is very familiar with John Redmond’s connection with both Wexford and Waterford.

This is an unfair representation of the President’s approach to the decade of commemorations. He has spoken on many occasions of the need for a hospitable narrative and of an ethical remembering of the events of 100 years ago in speeches, lectures and media interviews that have been acknowledged and welcomed by those of all traditions. I trust this letter clarifies the position. – Yours, etc,

HANS ZOMER,

Head of Communications

and Information,

Áras an Uachtaráin,

Phoenix Park,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Stephen Collins is right to regret the absence of President Michael D Higgins from the John Redmond centenary event at the Royal Irish Academy on March 6th.

However, all is not lost. The President could repair the omission by attending the commemoration at Redmond’s grave in Wexford. This event is to be rescheduled due to the recent bad weather.

It will be the last opportunity during the Decade of Centenaries for the State to honour the parliamentary tradition of Irish nationalism. It should not be missed. – Yours, etc,

CHARLES LYSAGHT,

Dublin 4.