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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Dec 1997

Vol. 484 No. 1

Ceisteanna—Questions. - Commemorative Events.

John Bruton


5 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the commemorations, if any, planned for 1998. [21159/97]

I propose to circulate the following details of proposed commemorations, in so far as they are available, for 1998, in the Official Report. The list does not include reference to the events planned to commemorate 1798 which I listed in reply to written Parliamentary Question No. 79 from Deputy McGinley on 18 November 1997.

Department of Defence

1916 commemoration ceremony, Arbour Hill, May 1998.

Deceased members commemoration, November, 1998.

Commemorative ceremonies to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Defence Forces participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, details to be finalised.

Department of the Environment and Local Government

Mid-1998 to mid-1999 a series of national events to commemorate the centenary of the system of local government, i.e. Local Government Act, 1898 and establishment of county councils in 1899.

Department of Public Enterprise

An Post — Programme of Commemorative Stamps

Bi-centenary of the 1789 Rebellion

Centenary of Local Government

Centenary of Women's Vote in Local Elections

25th Anniversary of Ireland's Membership of the EU

50th Anniversary of the introduction of the Republic of Ireland Act

Iarnród Eireann

Local commemorations in March, 1998 to mark the 150th anniversary of rail services in Thurles

Aer Lingus

40th anniversary of their transatlantic service in April

Department of Foreign Affairs

Consideration is being given to holding some commemorative event for the 25th anniversary of Ireland joining the EU.

Consideration is also being given to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

Department of the Taoiseach

National Day of Commemoration, Sunday 12 July.

Does the Taoiseach recollect receiving a letter from me about the 1798 commemorations which points out the complete omission of County Meath. This is a mistake in view of the substantial loss of life which occurred in County Meath in 1798. What does the Taoiseach intend doing about this? Is there any commemoration planned for the Young Ireland rising of 1848 of which next year is the 150th anniversary?

There are no plans on my list to commemorate the 1848 rising. To the best of my knowledge it is not tied in with my recent reply concerning 1798 but I will check that. I thank Deputy Bruton for his letter which sets out the historical facts of a substantial engagement during 1798 in County Meath. The group involved has not made any application. I thank the Deputy for giving me a contact name in the Meath Historical Society. I have instructed the committee to contact the society so that it will be included.

Given that many of the leaders of the 1848 rising were people with literary interests, such as Tomás Davis, John Mitchell and others, will the Taoiseach consider some literary commemoration such as commissioning a book, books or essays? There is a need for more historical and literary output.

I will look at this suggestion as it is an important commemoration. Most of next year's emphasis will be on the bi-centenary of the 1798 rebellion. However, there is no reason we could not have an appropriate commemoration of the 150th anniversary of 1848.

Will the Taoiseach indicate what form the commemorations will take? Does he have any concerns or reservations about the fact that the events being commemorated are all violent? Given the violence of the past 27 years in Northern Ireland which purported to be based on the history of 1798, 1848, 1916, 1919 and so on, does he consider it is time for us to use next year as a period of reflection on how we look at our history? Perhaps we are having too many simplistic commemorations. We should look in depth at our history in all its complexity.

Perhaps the Deputy should wait until we reach Parliamentary Question No. 10 to deal with the full facts of the National Commemoration Committee. The Irish community across the world is engaged in commemorating the 1798 rebellion. There are committees in New Zealand, the US and Britain. Irish people are very anxious to commemorate this event and the committees are incredibly determined to do so. Many books, pamphlets and videos are being produced. Things have changed a little when one looks at the leaders of the 1798 rebellion. They are different to those we tend to associate with more recent events. We have many commemorations of violent events but that is how our history has been for the past 800 years. We commemorate many of these events in a peaceful manner. Many commemorations involve pageants designed to commemorate events in a more stable way than in the past. Offence can be caused by the determination of some people to commemorate events in a more realistic manner.

I am more supportive of commemorating events surrounding the Croppy Acre in Wexford, Thomas Street and other developments that are focused on museums and memorials. The committee in Wexford are trying to create an overall commemoration of which people will be proud.

Does the Taoiseach agree that a commemoration of 1798, or of any military engagement, should commemorate the memory of those who fought on both sides so that a genuine sense of healing rather than division is achieved? I agree with Deputy De Rossa that we should commemorate peaceful constitutional change. In that regard, 1998 will be the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic by John A. Costello and will also be the 50th anniversary of the first rainbow coalition Government.