Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles could take part in Easter Rising event

By Steven Alexander

Speculation is growing that a senior member of the Royal Family - possibly Prince Charles - will take part in events to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

While the Queen has built enduring bridges with the Irish Republic, Charles has seen his royal role expand to include major foreign visits.

Most recently, he spent four days on a successful official visit to the US, where President Barack Obama joked that Americans like the British royals better than they like their own politicians.

If he continues to take on more of his 88-year-old mother's duties, Charles could well be heading to Dublin a year from now, where the Queen previously laid a wreath to those who died in 1916.

The 2011 visit was hailed as a historic breakthrough in the normalisation of British-Irish relations, and the Queen herself suggested that she would "stand alongside" Irish leaders for the anniversaries of the First World War "and the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State".

However, the idea that the Queen would take part in centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising has caused controversy in the Republic, attracting criticism from republicans in Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, and descendants of the leaders of the rebellion.

In efforts to find a solution, Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan has strongly suggested that a visit from a British royal can be accommodated "in an inclusive and sensitive way" without diminishing or sanitising the story of independence.

The Fine Gael TD's solution appears to involve holding a number of commemorations, inviting foreign dignitaries to those which do "not re-ignite old tensions", while others will "be moments for national, rather than international, commemoration".

The minister suggested these national events would be held on Easter Sunday 2016 and the actual centenary of the start of the Rising on April 24, 2016.

He said: "We will need to consider also whether, in terms of the domestic Ireland 2016 programme, there may be events where it will be appropriate to invite our international partners, at a suitable level, to join with us to reflect on the events of 1916 and to mark this key moment on Ireland's path to independence and place amongst the nations of the world."

Mr Flanagan added that as respect between Northern Ireland and the Republic has grown, he has been able to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies here.

Next year, he said, he "will mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in which thousands of Irish of all political hues died and which has particular resonance among unionist communities in Ireland".

Of the centenary of Northern Ireland's existence as a state in five years, he said: "It is in our mutual best interests to work closely together to encourage a collective North-South approach to respecting each others' key commemorations. Our shared aim should be to broaden sympathies, without having to abandon loyalties."

Background

During her historic visit to Dublin in 2011, the Queen said she would "stand alongside" Irish leaders when they commemorated the centenary of the Easter Rising. The move paved the way for royal handshakes with Martin McGuinness and a State visit last year to Britain by Irish President Michael D Higgins. During the visit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would like to see the Queen visit Ireland for the commemoration of 1916. But last month, the Irish government said that was "extremely unlikely". The Irish Foreign minister has now suggested that a British royal could attend events designed to host international dignitaries.

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