As the Minister with responsibility for leading the Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme, my priority is to ensure that the Government's approach to the remembrance of the significant historical events and related themes of the period from 1919 to 1923 is appropriate, measured, respectful, inclusive and sensitive to the different perspectives that persist on the events of this period.
The founding of Cumann na mBan on 2 April 1914 was a very significant development and was a salient date in the centenary commemorative calendar under the Decade of Centenaries. In seeking to ensure that the commemorative programme is authentic and comprehensive, I am particularly interested in ensuring that the vital role of women in making and shaping our national shared history will continue to be acknowledged and lead to a deepening of the public awareness and understanding of the role.
The history and achievements of Cumann na mBan have previously been commemorated under the State commemorative programme, specifically with a conference at the National Museum Collins Barracks in April 2014 and a commemorative stamp issued by An Post the same year. In 2016 the State commemoration to honour the role of women in the Easter Rising was led by President Higgins at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on International Women's Day. On 6 February last year I marked the date of passage of the legislation introducing the voting rights for women and their right to stand in parliamentary elections with the publication of the Mná1916 book by my Department, a copy of which I shared with each member of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The story of Cumann na mBan is also featured in both the Decade of Centenaries website and Century Ireland, the online contemporary newspaper of the Centenary programme supported by my Department.
The Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme 2019-2023 will be based on a four strand approach comprising:
- A State Ceremonial Strand which will comprise a limited number of symbolic acts of national commemoration focusing on themes of remembrance and reconciliation and on the commemoration of all of those who lost their lives during this period.
- An Historical Strand which will comprise a diverse range of activities designed to encourage authentic historical enquiry about this period and promote the use of primary archival sources. Initiatives will be developed in collaboration with State partners, National Cultural Institutions, institutions of learning and other stakeholders.
- A Community Strand, which will involve a collaborative approach – similar to that adopted for the 1916 centenary commemorations – between the State, local authority network and community organisations, including in Northern Ireland where appropriate.
- The Creative Imagination Strand, which will continue to encourage artistic and creative expression in remembrance of the significant historical events of the period from 1919 to 1923 and all of those who lost their lives.
The development of Cumann na mBan and it's significant contribution to the nation over the course of this historical period will continue to be recognised through these four commemorative strands.