herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Opposition cries foul as Enda Kenny delivers the first of 3,300 tricolors ahead of 1916 commemorations

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Heather Humphreys at a ceremony in St. Patrick's National School, Cornanool, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Heather Humphreys at a ceremony in St. Patrick's National School, Cornanool, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at a ceremony in St. Patrick's National School, Cornanool, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

THE first of 3,300 tricolours to be delivered to schools around the country as part of the 1916 commemorations has been given to children in Mayo.

Pupils at St Patrick’s NS in Cornanool were visited by past pupil Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan yesterday for the launch of the Flags for Schools initiative.

However, last night Fianna Fail accused the Government of making the event party political by failing to invite opposition politicians to attend.

“The Government has repeatedly assured the public that they will not seek to hijack the national commemorations of the 1916 Rising for narrow party political advantage,” said the party’s arts spokesman Sean O’Fearghail.

“The decision to launch this national event, developed for our school children, with only Government representatives present, raises a serious question mark over this commitment,” he said.

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“It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Government would launch the initiative with the Taoiseach, the Arts Minister and the Education Minister officiating and not show the basic courtesy of inviting opposition arts spokespeople.

“The 1916 Rising does not belong to any party or any sectional interest.

“It belongs to the entire Irish nation. 

“The Government should not be using key events like today’s launch for party political purposes and I would like the Taoiseach to explain how the event fits with the previous commitment to keep the commemoration non-political,” he said.

As part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme, the Defence Forces will present a flag and a copy of the proclamation to every primary school in the country. Mr Kenny described yesterday’s event on the outskirts of his home town of Castlebar as “a very special occasion”.

“In being here, we are helping to remember the great sacrifice of the people who fought in 1916 and after, so that this flag could be flown by its people, and that this nation could take its place among the world’s free nations,” he told pupils.

Ms Humphreys said the initiative would help children “gain a greater understanding of the work of the Defence Forces and the importance of our national flag, which symbolises the aspiration for peace between the different traditions on this island”.

It is envisaged that all national schools will have received their national flag by Proclamation Day, next March 15.

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