Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 12 Mar 1991

Vol. 406 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Government Plans for Commemoration.

Proinsias De Rossa


4 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if the Government have any plans for any special events or activities to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the United Irishmen in 1791 having regard to the organisation's significance in Irish history; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

There are no plans to commemorate the formation of the societies of United Irishmen which were founded in 1791 and 1792.

However, given that the most significant events at that time in Ireland must have been the 1798 Rebellion, it might be more appropriate to consider whether this should be commemorated.

Obviously I raised this question because there has been so much hype about the 75th Anniversary of 1916 and because of my belief that the establishment of the United Irishmen had perhaps a far more profound effect on the subsequent development of Irish politics. In that regard — and as the objective of the United Irishmen was to unite our people regardless of religious persuasion — would it not be appropriate to mark the foundation of the society in some way this year to at least counterbalance the undue hype in relation to the 75th anniversary of 1916?

I do not agree with the statement in the last part of the Deputy's supplementary. What we propose for the 75th anniversary of 1916 is dignified and simple. Of course, I fully accept the role which the United Irishmen played in our history and they are entitled to be honoured. However, there must be a limit on the number of official commemorations and I suggest that, in cases like the formation of the United Irishmen, it would be more appropriate for people who are interested in that event — enthusiasts — to organise some sort of commemoration of their own on a private basis; I do not mean on a private individual basis but outside Government.

I endorse the suggestion from Deputy De Rossa that there should be a commemoration of the establishment of the United Irishmen. Is the Taoiseach aware that they were one of the first Irish movements which were clearly seen as part of an overall European radical and non-sectarian tradition? In view of the relevance of such ideas to the solution of our problems in the latter half of the 20th century, will the Taoiseach not agree that commemorating such an event in Ireland, which was part of the general European trend, would be highly appropriate and would help us in solving our problems in future?

I do not disagree with that but it is more appropriate to a privately organised commemoration outside Government. I do not think that the Government should have official commemorations for every possible and conceiveable event; the official Government commemoration should be confined to major events because, in that way, they probably carry more weight and are of more significance. There is no need for any confrontation about this; I would encourage groups of enthusiasts, historians or people of that kind, to commemorate the foundation of the United Irishmen.

Will the Taoiseach consider encouraging An Post to issue a stamp marking the foundation of the United Irishmen?

Our stamp programme is fairly full at the moment but it could be kept in mind. Perhaps we could issue a stamp for 1798 when the time comes round to commemorate it, and I am sure that we will.