The 1916 centenary commemorations were inclusive, respectful and measured and sought to strengthen peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Official estimates indicate that over 1 million people were present to participate in and enjoy the commemorative, reflective and celebratory events that took place over the Easter weekend and which were a great source of pride for our citizens. The military parade and ceremony past the GPO on Easter Sunday saw approximately 4,500 guests attending - predominantly relatives of those who took part in the 1916 Rising - as well as many thousands of citizens participating right along the parade route. Easter Monday saw the largest public history and cultural event ever staged in Ireland, with more than 500 free talks, exhibitions, music, theatre, debates and performances across a number of venues and zones in Dublin City Centre. Feedback from members of the public and the media clearly indicated the very positive engagement of the general public with the commemorative events, as well as the extent to which citizens felt a great sense of national pride and respect during this historic time.
The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme has met with widespread support across the political, academic and community sectors. It has engaged our communities at home and abroad in an unprecedented way and the benefits at community level and indeed nationally cannot be underestimated. The inclusive nature of the programme has enabled citizens to really examine our history and has encouraged them to consider the future of their communities. The local authorities developed their own individual programmes based on the national programme and this has encouraged active citizenship at local level and has leveraged economic benefits right across the country.
Of course, the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme is a year-long initiative, with a huge diversity of programmes and events running throughout 2016. While a large number of the key events took place around the Easter period, the programme has continued through the remainder of 2016, with many exciting and innovative programmes and initiatives, including a large number of activities at local level. A landmark, national conference was hosted by NUIG earlier this month, entitled 1916 - 2016: The Promise and Challenge of National Sovereignty. Next month, members of the Defence Forces will be presented with specially commissioned medals in recognition of their professional service during this centenary year.
I believe that it is important to continue the momentum to build on the positive legacy of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. My Department has, therefore, been developing a cross-Government initiative to mainstream culture and creativity in the life of the nation and to promote individual, community and national wellbeing. This will focus on boosting cultural provision and participation in communities and harnessing the goodwill and engagement generated by the commemorative programme this year. It will also act as the main vehicle to take forward the priorities identified in Culture 2025. I have secured funding of €5 million in Budget 2017 to underpin this new initiative and I intend to announce further details in the coming weeks.