Sunday 23 November 2014

It's time to grow up and move on by inviting British royals to 1916 celebrations

IN just two years' time we will commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising.

The 1916 rebellion was swiftly and brutally put down and its leaders summarily executed.

However it would be the catalyst six years later for the successful War of Independence that won us a 26 county Free State and eventually the republic we live in today.

The Rising, although almost exclusively confined to Dublin, was a seminal and defining moment in the long and bloody march of this country towards freedom and independence from the United Kingdom.

It deserves to be commemorated with all the reverence, respect and gratitude we owe to those selfless patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice to achieve independence.

During the recent highly successful state visit of President Michael D Higgins to Britain, Queen Elizabeth II endorsed a suggestion that a British royal might attend some of the 2016 celebrations.

Not all are happy with that suggestion. Historian Diarmaid Ferriter is among those who questioned if it is appropriate for a Royal to visit Ireland as part of the commemoration.

Others who are in agreement with Mr Ferriter say that the presence of British royals will deflect attention and focus away from the central theme of the commemoration.

I cannot agree with them. Instead I back the views expressed by Junior Minister Brian Hayes at last weekend's 1916 ceremonies outside the GPO.

He stated that the presence of a member of the Royal family would not overshadow the event.

His views were followed by those of Deirdre Ryan Ives, a grandniece of one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, Sean MacDiarmada.

Ryan-Ives stated that she thinks "it's fine if they come". "I'm glad relations are improving, it's a sign of progress," she said.

Such words of reconciliation, coming from a relative of one of the leaders of 1916, should and must be listened to.

The 2011 visit of Queen Elizabeth II to this country should dispel any lingering doubts we might have about royal attendance in two years time.

During her visit the British monarch paid such a moving and heartfelt tribute to our patriot dead at the Garden of Remembrance, and also to the Irish dead of both World Wars at the Memorial Park at Islandbridge.

Royal attendance would in no way overshadow or diminish the significance of the 2016 commemoration.

The royal visit here and recent state visit of our president to Britain indicate that relations between ourselves and our nearest neighbour have never been more friendlier or warm.

Add to this the fact that 100,000s of Irish men and women have made their home and their lives in Great Britain over the past century.

The 2016 centenary will truly be an international event with representatives from countries right across the globe in attendance. It would be an unneighbourly insult if we did not invite members of the royal family – and of the British government too – to such a momentous event.

Their presence would mark the dawn of a new epoch in Anglo-Irish relations. We need to grow up and move on. Peace and reconciliation demand it.

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