Belfast Telegraph

Families invited for 1916 centenary

Relatives of those who fought and died in the 1916 Rising are being invited to take part in official events to mark the centenary.

The Government moved to avoid a potentially embarrassing row with descendants, some of whom have suggested that they should boycott the commemorations if they are not formally recognised.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who is in charge of planning next year's celebrations, said he wants the principled commitment and selfless determination of the revolutionary leaders and soldiers and supporters acknowledged.

The minister said he wants to see as many of the descendants and relatives as possible attend and participate in events.

"Throughout the development of the centenary programme, in all of the consultation meetings on different issues, I have been impressed with the interest and commitment of the family members and their wish to be closely involved in the upcoming commemorations," Mr Deenihan said.

"I believe that our acknowledgement of the service, sacrifice and achievement of the truly remarkable men and women involved in the Easter Rising should include a special consideration and their descendants and relatives should be involved.

"Our ongoing preparations would be greatly assisted if relatives who are interested in being represented in the centenary arrangements could contact the department.

"I would be grateful to receive all such expressions of interest in relation to the commemorations in 2016 from families along with information on their familial connection to the Rising."

Mr Deenihan said the centenary commemorations should reflect the historic importance and transformative effect Easter 1916 has had on Irish society and the presence of descendants is part of that.

Members of the British Royal Family are expected to be invited to attend the commemorations but this is the first formal acknowledgement that descendants will have a role to play.

A public meeting was planned for a Dublin hotel next week to rally relatives of those who fought and died after a number expressed frustration and fear that they were being frozen out by government officials.

An expert advisory group involving UCD modern history Professor Diarmaid Ferriter - who said the relatives have a right to be concerned - and other prominent historians such as Martin Mansergh and Professor Eunan O'Halpin of Trinity College will meet regularly to plan for next year's events.

Sinn Fein will hold the position of Lord Mayor of Dublin in 2016, giving the party a prominent position in events.

Plans are also being developed to restore four buildings 14-17 Moore Street, including the headquarters of the Rising in No 16, in time for next Easter.

James Connolly-Heron, great grandson of executed rebel leader James Connolly, said inviting relatives was an obvious step to take.

"I should think so," he said. "We're discussing the guest list without even knowing the programme. There's more time being given over to whether Her Majesty (the Queen) will be invited - and I use that term jokingly - or a member of her family will be invited than to how we intend to mark the centenary.

"For the last number of years we could claim that there was an element of privatisation of the ceremonies. There was an element of disquiet among relatives.

"It should be open to the public, the public are being pushed back further and further.

"O'Connell Street is a big street, how could there be a problem, or a limit on relatives?"

Mr Connolly-Heron said the Government could do more to show its commitment to remembering the 1916 rebels by ensuring that all houses and buildings on Moore Street are preserved as part of a cultural and historical centre rather than allowing a section of it to be redeveloped.

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