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Column: Why is the Government afraid of celebrating 1916?

It appears to be a case of ‘don’t mention the war’ in the corridors of power at Dáil Éireann when it comes to 1916.

Paul Allen

THERE IS A strong whiff of revolution in the air and the Government is scared. People are taking to the streets. People are protesting. People are angry.

The water charges debacle has the Government floundering. So much so that any talk of revolution is avoided — even when it comes to celebrating the centenary of 1916.

Some people have accused the 1916 Relatives Association of trying to assert too much control on the 2016 celebrations. But far from trying to ‘take over’ the celebrations, the relatives know that if the Irish Government doesn’t get over its phobia when it comes to celebrating the Easter Rising, every Irish person is going to be robbed of an opportunity to show their national pride and celebrate the people and ideology that led to the birth of a nation.

However, the Government seems to be more content that Irish people look to St Patrick’s Day, pints of Guinness and shamrocks when it comes to identifying with their Irishness. This was highlighted in the appalling video published earlier this month to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Apart from its blandness and looking like a promo for the Gathering Mark II it had one major failing — it didn’t actually mention the Rising. It had Bono, Bob Geldof, the Queen and even Ian Paisley, but there was no sight nor sound of Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly or any of those who took part in 1916.

The Government felt the backlash and the video quickly disappeared from the internet. However, it did leave a lasting impression the Government is seemingly intent on celebrating 2016 without any reference to 1916.

Sidestepping the issue

Maybe it comes down to Civil War politics or a feeling in the Government that it does not want to fan the flames of republicanism at a time when our relationship with UK is stronger than ever, people are protesting on the streets and Sinn Fein is becoming a significant political power.

But the more the Government sidesteps the issue, the more it plays into the hands of those who want to politicise 2016, rather than celebrate it for the ideals put forward in the Proclamation that would eventually lead to creating the country we live in today.

The Relatives of those who fought and gave their lives in 1916 want Irish people throughout the world to have an occasion where they can truly celebrate and pay homage to those men and women and their ideals that would eventually give us the freedom to proudly call ourselves citizens of Ireland. They want 2016 to be celebrated with the reverence, respect and reflection it deserves.

However, they are very concerned that the Government’s actions to date suggest we will fail to achieve this. Because of this they have come to loggerheads with the Government, not to derail or undermine any planned events, but to underline to the powers that be that this is not some political football that can be kicked to touch.

So, the 1916 Relatives Association is ready to reach its hand out to all those who want to embrace 2016 and make it a year to celebrate for all Irish people throughout the world. And this includes the Government, once it wakes up from its fear of mentioning the war.

Paul Allen is managing director of Paul Allen and Associates PR and also represents the 1916 Relatives Association. Follow his blog here.

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Paul Allen

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