SINN FÉIN has today introduced legislation to the Dáil which, if passed, would create a new national holiday to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising.
The legislation, tabled by Aengus Ó Snodaigh, would create a new holiday known as ‘Lá na Poblachta’ – meaning ‘Day of the Republic’ – on April 24, the anniversary of the date in 1916 on which the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was made.
The legislation also provides that the holiday would be moved to the following Monday if the date fell on a weekend – making it different from other public holidays, where holiday entitlements do not totally carry over to a nearby weekday.
This is adjusted slightly if April 24 falls on the Saturday or Sunday of Easter Weekend – with the holiday then falling on Good Friday, making it a formal public holiday (it is currently treated only as an informal holiday in many workplaces).
The Bill would also see a new ‘Bord Lá na Poblachta’ set up to “promote, encourage, coordinate and fund [events] in commemoration and appreciation of the contribution made to the Irish nation by those who, during the centuries of occupation of Ireland by a foreign power, gave their lives and liberty to pursue the freedom of the Irish nation”.
It shall also seek to raise awareness and promote discourse, analysis and understanding of the ideals and aspirations contained in the key revolutionary documents and events leading up to the declaration of the Irish Republic at the GPO on Monday 24th 25 April, 1916.
Ó Snodaigh said most countries had national holidays to mark the date of a major battle or other events that saw them win independence from a colonial state, and that Ireland should be no different.
“While we have yet to secure a fully independent republic we should not allow that to stop us from celebrating the proclamation of our nation and remembering all those who died in pursuit of our independence,” he said.
Ireland currently has nine formal public holidays – not including Good Friday – while the EU average is 11.
One of the difficulties in choosing a historical date to mark Irish independence is the fact that Ireland’s gradual transition from British colony to independent state took many incremental steps, each of which took place on a different date – and some of which went without international recognition.
For example, the first Dáil – which claimed to re-establish the Irish Republic, backdated to 1916 – met on January 21, 1919, but that independent Republic was never internationally recognised.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created an internationally recognised Irish Free State – albeit with the British monarch as its head of state – was signed on December 6, 1921, ratified by the Dáil on January 7, 1922, and nominally approved by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland on January 14. It took effect on December 6.
The Statute of Westminster 1931, which formally ‘split’ the Irish Free State off from the United Kingdom, but maintained an Irish kingdom with the King of Britain as its head – was passed on 11 December of that year. However, no similar law was passed by the Irish Free State.
The ceasefire that ended the Irish Civil War was called on May 24, 1923, while the Republic of Ireland Act – which removed any lingering doubts about the status of head of state, and affirmed that this was the President of Ireland – was passed on December 21, 1948 (but not coming into effect until April 18, 1949).