Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Joint war commemoration suggested

A report has called for a joint British and Irish approach to commemorating the First World War

There should be a joint British-Irish approach to commemorating the First World War, a new report has said.

The document, which was presented to a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Glasgow, has recommended that a number of significant centenary anniversaries be marked with joint events over the next decade.

Report author Frank Feighan TD said: "Commemoration of the past presents dangers. Risks exist that certain groups will attempt to exploit the anniversaries in a way which further divides us, undermining the progress achieved in recent years.

"But it presents opportunities as well. If history makes us who we are, surely a sensitive and inclusive examination of our shared past might serve to deepen mutual understanding between different people and communities, and to foster the ongoing process of reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and between our islands."

Mr Feighan, chairman of the assembly's committee on Sovereign Affairs, produced the report after a year-long consultation with a range of academics, political groups and community bodies in Ireland and the UK.

One of the key recommendations is to establish a cross-border educational initiative to arrange, on a single day on an annual basis, exchanges and the teaching of the history of a particular anniversary.

Mr Feighan said the committee had been heartened by the peaceful passing of events to commemorate the signing of the Ulster Covenant last month. He suggested that authorities and others involved in commemorative activities could learn from the manner in which the sensitive event was managed.

He added: "2012 is the first year in a decade which sees a number of very significant anniversaries in Irish and British history.

"These include the centenaries of the introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill in Westminster, the Home Rule Crisis and the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Dublin Lockout, the establishment of the Irish Volunteers (which is considered the birth of the Irish Defence forces, Oglaigh na hEireann), the outbreak of the First World War, the Easter Rising of 1916, the War of Independence, the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the partition of Ireland.

"These momentous events changed the course of Irish history and relations between the peoples of our islands for the rest of the century."

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