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Arbour Hill during the 1916 commemorations. Sam Boal/

Commemoration events to mark centenary of War of Independence 'challenging and sensitive'

The government hasn’t yet finalised the State programme for 1920 commemorative events.

THE GOVERNMENT IS facing criticism because it has failed to publish the list commemorative events due to take place next year to mark moments of significance during the War of Independence.

Since 2012, a programme of events has taken place each year to mark the centenary of an important historical event in Ireland.

This has encompassed events to mark the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Easter Rising. 

With the War of Independence beginning 100 years ago this year, the government has said marking particular events has become “challenging”. That situation will become even more challenging with the Civil War starting in 1922 and lasting just under a year.

The Soloheadbeg Ambush is often cited as the beginning of the War of Independence in 1919, but violence escalated across the island in 1920 and 1921 prior to the truce agreed with the British in July 1921.

An expert advisory group acts independently and informs how events are commemorated with the aim of ensuring they are done “accurately, proportionately and appropriately in tone”. 

Speaking to an Oireachtas Committee earlier this month, the group’s chair Dr Maurice Manning said that the remembrance for Soloheadbeg in January this year “worked effectively in a complex and sensitive local context”.

“The group recommends that the State should continue to support local and county commemorative exercises to widen and deepen a historical understanding of the significance of the events being commemorated among the public at large,” he said.

Committee chair, and Sinn Féin TD, Donncadh Ó Laoghaire said in a statement that the current proposed budgetary allocation of €10,000 per local authority is “inadequate”. 

“The Committee suggests strongly that a funding similar to that provided in 2016 be provided to each local authority for 2020 particularly taking into account the number of separate events that took place throughout the country in 1920,” he said.

Ó Laoghaire also expressed concern that a programme of events hadn’t been finalised yet. 

Ó Laoghaire added: “The Committee recommends that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht agrees and publishes as soon as possible a full programme of events to take place in the years to come and, in particular, events to take place in 2020. Given we are now in December 2019 it is important this happens quickly.”

In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Minister Josepha Madigan said the government was committed to “remembering this very complex period in our history”. 

“We have entered the most challenging and sensitive phase of the Decade of Centenaries,” she said.

Madigan added she expected to be in a position to finalise the State programme “early in the new year”. 

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