Decade of Commemorations Leveraging the Past to Impact on the Present



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6.12 Economics and Cultural Aspects of DOC Events

The 2016 Rising programme has been capitalised upon by political stakeholders who are asserting their ideologies what is thus to be realised and capitalised upon is that “assertions of local or national identity, global cultural connectedness, recognition and emerging civic pride” (Foley. McGillivray & Mc Pherson 2012, P.35) can materialise through large scale events especially evocative commemorations which resonate with the national and global psyche and reinforce a sense of identity. A Keynesian multiplier model could be undertaken and evaluate to the investment of €35 million into the commemorations programme. Foley, McGillivray & McPherson states that “In terms of cultural events it is difficult to evaluate if the impact is due to the artist or social one” (2012, P. 36). A cultural event that takes place with community artists from north and south Ireland could fail to have the required impact if a large enough ‘draw’ is not evident in the artistic programming that would entice the public to attend. However, leveraging the social capital in Decade of Commemoration and particularly in Ireland’s context the period 1915/1916 could instil civic pride and a sense of collective memory in the events of the period in the people from the island which could encourage their engagement in community events that will be delivered across the island. The argument for a strong cultural programme to be put in place for 1916 commemorations is evident when Foley, McGillivray & McPherson further state “it is likely that non-locals are visiting a city because of a sporting or cultural festival but equally it is at least possible that they are visiting not to see the actual event, but for the social and cultural festivities that surround the event, thus making the city a more attractive place to visit, a place to be at the time of a global focus upon that region” (P.37 2012) and that a “National policy of boosterism” (Foley, McGillivray & McPherson 2012 P.45) can be evident in the people when countries are in the spotlight through events that attract global attention. If carefully managed this could assist with negating Ireland’s negative image since the economic crash of 2008 as one of a country that is re-emerging with its people taking pride in its historic foundations and the evaluating the legacy that has been left by its patriots. As a way to tackle the multiple identity issues that exist across the island of Ireland “Events have the potential to create a conversations and reviews of national identity and history” and “Events can be used to internationally alter perceptions of a nation” (Foley, McGillivray & McPherson 2012 P.xx) Political and celebrity endorsement of the events that will take place in 2016 in Ireland can be assist with status of the event as Foley, McGillivray and McPherson states “The status of the city and nation winning the event is now associated with the politicians and celebrities that have backed the event” (Foley. McGillivray & McPherson, 2012, P. 46)

Further Examination:

‘Festival of American folklore’ ‘annual exhibition of living cultural heritage from across the united states and around the world’ key impetus was to’ stimulate a sense of ownership and identification with the national patrimony’

‘Scottish Highland Games’ – an event not only held in Scotland but also around the world where its diaspora are found which allows their migrants to retain aspects of their identity such as ‘music, dance and other distinctly Scottish cultural traditions’.


  1. Evaluate capital investment in DOC events – For how many years could the impact of DOC investment be felt. Assess what the benefits of DOC events could be social, cultural, peace building etc.

  2. Trails development around events and characters of decade of commemorations

6.13 Conclusion and summary

This chapter has set the broad context in which this research was based. The focus of the chapter was to provide an overview of commercial and sponsorship opportunities that could be leveraged during DOC and utilising digital technology and social media as a marketing tool which could impact on revenue and publicity generated. The next chapter explores Diaspora and its potential to be engaged in commemoration events.



Chapter 7

Engaging the Diaspora – Research at Luton Irish Forum

7.1 Introduction

This chapter provides the reader with an insight into ground level responses from Irish, Northern Irish and British Diaspora in Luton, UK on their feelings about Decade of Commemorations and discusses ways to engage the Diaspora in events.



7.2 The Irish in Britain

The Irish in Britain are an ethnic identity consisting of 870,000 Irish born nationals and diaspora of 1 in 10 (6 million) who claim at least 25% Irish ancestry (ONS Census, 2011). Tunbridge argues that ‘heritage is indigenous versus colonial” which relates to “two different groups with parelell heritages” which can lead to “development of an atmosphere where cultural and racial diversity and multicultural sensitivities are high” (Tunbridge 1998b Quoted by Boyd & Allen 2003, P.265). Whilst Irish emigration has been inward to Britain the ethnic group remained insular due to colonial past and the ethnicity being interpreted as having an uncomfortable association with paramilitary activism throughout the 20th century in the form of the IRA which led to tensions. Irish collective identity in Britain though established has not been as forthright in demanding equality or equal visibility as ethnic groups such as the Black community who hold a ‘Black history month’ to commemorate their past. The movement towards equality and recognition of intellect amongst British society is somewhat evidenced however in areas such as the 54,000 Irish who are now directors on company boards (https://www.linkedin.com/company/eulogy). Identity assertion in Britain is subtle through ongoing in this ethnic grouping and capacity building remains core to retaining identity and heritage links.

The Irish Decade of Commemorations events in 2016 will seek to engage Diaspora in two ways with a programme in both Ireland and Britain. Diaspora from Britain may wish to return to Ireland to commemorate the key events such as Easter 1916 and The Somme which may allow these individuals and groups to connect with their heritage. According to Daly, M. (Fianna Fail, Mar 2014) 150,000 direct descendants of the 1916 Rising exist but only 400 are contained on a database held by government which could hinder a direct invitation process. A programme of events is central to inviting people back to Ireland but Diaspora probably need at least 12 months to plan a trip. Timothy (2011, P.407) states that “Many diasporic groups maintain strong ties to their homelands, including people of later generations who never visited the mother country before” and “Travelling to places associated with one’s own personal past is said to help people feel more grounded in their lives, helping them to reaffirm their fluid identities and overcome the angst associated with hyper modernity” (2011, P.406) which may allow Diaspora from Britain to enjoy a holiday where they connect in with the political heritage of the country but also disconnect from the hyper modern life in Britain

7.3 Workshop Methodology and Context

The methodology for undertaking research with Diaspora in the UK involved designing the theme of a workshop that was delivered in Luton Irish Forum on the 4th November 2014 and undertaking evaluation based research with the audience. This workshop theme engaged 2 specialist speakers; Irish Ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall and Dr. Ivan Gibbons Programme Director of Irish Studies at St Mary's University Twickenham who discussed the context and legacy of the 1916 Easter Rising.



poster_doc Image: Flyer for 1916 workshop Luton Irish Forum November 2014

Dr. Gibbons discussed the period and its political context and why 100 years on the events still attract controversy. The centenary commemoration of 1916 is now more controversial then the 50th anniversary in 1966 as this event was viewed in “reverential terms”. The period was also influenced by (as it was close to) the outbreak of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Ambassador Dan Mulhall highlighted his personal links to 1916, family members from his grandparents’ generation who were active during the war of Independence and the overlap between the history of Britain and Irish people who fought in large numbers and died on the Western front and Gallipoli. Highlighting that the Decade of Commemorations will allow people to commemorate other significant dates beyond 1916, he stated Irish people should not “be embarrassed” to commemorate these dates. Dispute was evident among the audience on the actual date that should be commemorated and celebrated with 1916, 1922, 1937 and 1948 being raised as dates of the foundation of Ireland in its modern and present form. Voices stated that we should ‘remember events faithful to the historical context’ and ‘the reasons and intentions of the leaders to have a free and independent Ireland’.

Whilst the Irish government plans for 2016 were not discussed in entirety at the event, what was communicated is the aim for inclusivity within the community on the island which will accommodate differing views that exist and those that do not belong to one part or any grouping. The government is allocating €23 million in funding and €7.8 million will go towards a dedicated heritage centre at the GPO which will be an ambitious attempt to present The Rising in all of its complex facets to future generations of Irish people. The Irish embassy London will also have an extensive programme during 2016.

7.4 Research Findings

A total of 34 responses were received from the audience. 9 stated relation to persons involved in events that occurred during the decade 1912 – 1923 such as WW1, The Rising and Civil War and 26 stated no relations involved in the events or none that they were aware of. A genealogy week as an extension of Heritage Week in Ireland and making records accessible through roadshows to teach family history from possibly a reverse perspective could be delivered in Britain as part of the commemorative events.



Ethnic Origins

1 – Declared no identity

1 – Declared as Northern Irish

21 – Declared as Irish

10 - Declared as British

1 - Declared as British and Irish

1 - Declared as Irish and Northern Irish

7.4 (1) Commemoration or celebration? Mood as to how a state reflects on the legacy of 1916

Contentiously the commemoration events of 1916 will be viewed by some as a celebration of the founding of the Irish state and by others as a commemoration of 16 men who were martyred in the name of the country. Therefore to commemorate or celebrate the events can be divisive. Respondents were asked if there should be a ‘commemoration or celebration’. 28 of 34 who returned surveys stated they wished to commemorate the event. 2 said both commemoration and celebration, 3 said celebration and 1 unanswered. When asked how as a nation Ireland should remember the events of 1916 and what core themes should run through a commemoration or celebration some stated political, sacrifice in 1916, independence in 1921 and remembrance themes should be central whilst also symbolism must be evident. Others stated there was “Unfinished business – the Free State which is the 26 counties has left behind 6 counties in the north of Ireland known as Northern Ireland” and Irish dead in the First World War should be remembered. Others felt that large civic events should be ‘historical if possible’ and individuals could commemorate ‘as they wish’ whilst some were cautious about the date and stated it should be commemorated ‘carefully’. Others suggested that ‘we should celebrate becoming a nation it’s not complicated really we can celebrate becoming a nation without emphasising ‘winners and losers’ (Reference to Dan Mulhall talk) and they were ‘proud to be Irish and would like to see a respectful and joyful celebration at the birth of our nation’. Others stated that historical accuracy should be central stating ‘remembering events faithful to their historical context’. Others stated a ‘sense of community’ should be a core theme for the events, whilst wider themes that discussed Irish achievements across the last 100 years which would place past alongside present such as ‘independence, survival, economic successes, literature and culture’. Others sought an impartial ‘balanced view on the reasons for the Rising, what was good and what was not so good under British rule’ and to ‘celebrate the foundation of Ireland as it is today’.



7.4 (2) Leveraging DOC to generate tourism and entice migrants to visit or return home

The 1916 commemorations will entice a number of citizens and international visitors to visit Ireland during April 2016 and possibly onwards across the year. Respondents were asked about their connection to Ireland and what events or activities would motivate them to travel to Ireland during the period. 10 supplied no answer to the question, 5 responded and stated ‘none’ or ‘none specifically’ and that they would rather see ‘care for the children of the nation’ and ‘I would feel that I could celebrate it here (GB) if it is going to be an international event’. In terms of attracting people to Ireland for the ceremonies audience members stated ‘I believe that lots is already being done to attract people to go to Ireland. Most Irish people go anyway’ and they ‘would not be motivated to travel to Ireland’ as they expect local activities in Britain to take place. Several stated that they believed ‘lots is already being done to attract people to go to Ireland. Many Irish people go anyway’.

Timothy states (2011, P.408) that “Return visit trips are temporary trips to an immigrants original homeland or to another area where he/she has strong social connections” such as “visiting friends, family and relatives (VFR) tourism as it tends to entail more of a social network function than simply a day to day touristic activity”. Respondents had basic motivators which did not connect to DOC objectives but were grounded in family connections such as ‘To see family and to enjoy time in the country” and ‘My late husband’s family heritage’. They also stated they wished for events to be centred on ‘Peace and Reconciliation’. Therefore it may be better value for the government to incorporate the 1916 commemoration events into existing marketing programmes rather than develop a new standalone programme for the events during 2016.

The opening of visitor centres and a cultural programme proved a draw for the respondents and 18 stated they would return for events such as the opening of ‘a new interpretive centre on birth of Irish state’, or for ‘a significant celebration’ which included dignitaries such as the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister on Easter Monday outside the GPO and for events which contained ‘Irish traditional music and culture’ and ‘Food festivals with Irish music, dance, pageants’. Others stated cultural, educational aspects should be core to the programme to ‘commemorate Irish poets, writers, playwrights etc.’ and deliver ‘tours of key sites with good visual displays’ and ‘photographic displays, lectures, discussions’ would entice them home. However, they also stated that ‘the cost of travel/accommodation needs to be controlled’ and ‘I would like to be treated decently and get a good exchange’. Others suggested that a national day of commemoration with time for silence could be observed and that an area for the public to visit with a visual aid/statue or building should be erected as a place to visit as a memorial and others suggested a national interpretive centre at the GPO be established. The possible action that might be realised upon this is capital development of a large scale civic memorial with reflection space.



7.4 (3) International perceptions of the 1916 Rising and reaching out across the globe with 2016 events The 1916 Rising influenced small nations around the globe that independence from empire was possible. With the advent of time however, its relevance today on a global scale has to be determined. Respondents were asked “From outside the island of Ireland what is the overall perception of events during 1912 – 1923? Do you believe an event such as 1916 has an international reach? Why if so, why not if not?” A large number answered that Irish Diaspora and nationals living around the globe and those in Commonwealth countries who also had paths to independence would be interested in the events in Ireland in 2016 but also that the over-arching stories of WW1 and these connections would need to be discussed to put the Rising in context as “People outside have little knowledge or interest in these events”. Others stated that the event may be ‘romanticised to some extent due to media and community narratives’ and unlike the World Wars ‘Only those with specific interest will have any knowledge” due to the media exposure and the wider audience reach given to WW1 and WW2. Some stated that ‘The events of 1912 – 1923 can seem complicated to follow’ and ‘I don’t know anyone who speaks about it’. Others stated ‘I don’t believe an event such as 1916 has international reach because Ireland was a very small country and did not have much influence’ and that it is only relevant to the ‘Irish’. That ‘self-government was the aim of the Irish volunteers and they showed the world their determination’ whilst others stated ‘yes particularly in Britain and the USA’ but that the ‘younger generation don’t know much about it’.

7.4 (4) Engaging the international community

When asked ‘if it is relevant to the international community how do you believe we should reach out to the international community through the commemoration of the period?’ respondents replied that the wider narrative of WW1 should be discussed. Others suggested to reach the Irish organisations and hold ‘commemorations at Irish centres and consulates’. Media leveraging was suggested as a way to broadcast the story to the world by producing documentaries, lectures and ‘a film/TV series and books with a balanced viewpoint and put into the context of the history of the period’ with a viewpoint that is ‘bipartisan and non-sectarian’. Others suggested the government should disseminate information to all countries and by developing tourism, particularly in Dublin ‘in terms of exhibitions etc.’ Others suggested more dramatic action ‘through revolution’ and through contact with ‘history clubs of countries like America, Spain, any other European country, New Zealand, Canada etc.’ whilst others were nuanced and said ‘I feel this would be an empty political effort but remain open minded’. Other voices stated that ‘the events of 1912 – 1923 can seem complicated to follow’. Other voices suggested Ireland should reach out to countries such as Russia and Spain who also had significant historic events take place during the 1912 – 1922 period and other countries who had ‘similar movements’. A possible action may be to simplify the history through animation or other light story board mediums that can be easy to follow and gel to which could be disseminated to households across the island and across Irish centres and communities in Britain, US, Canada, Australia etc.

7.4 (5) Relatives Only or All Welcome to Commemorate? When asked ‘Should only the relatives be able to reflect upon this period of should all people who want to commemorate this period be enabled to?’ The vast proportion of respondents replied that it should not just be relatives and that ‘all who wish to reflect should be allowed to’. Others stated some political groups may wish to capitalise on 2016. Some respondents suggested ‘every Irish person’ and relatives ‘surviving’ and ‘all people’ and ‘especially people interested in Irish history’. Others stated ‘the relatives do deserve to be at the heart of the events’ and ‘of course all peoples should be enabled to understand and commemorate the period’.

7.4 (6) Irish commemorations in the UK

If responses from the research group are believed historical commemoration with an Irish angle has been largely non-existent in mainland Britain. Some said they had seen ‘None’ and ‘I haven’t seen any’ and ‘very few unfortunately’ and ‘I can’t think of any that have been commemorated – only seeing the first lady and president inaugurated’. Commemorations in 2016 will provide a rich opportunity for Irish connected groups to deliver cultural, social and education activities in British towns and cities that are themed upon the Rising. Whether this will cause community friction is unclear. The researcher asked ‘what has been your experience of living in the UK and commemorating Irish historical events from the 20th century?’ respondents replied ‘none commemorated to my knowledge, unless you count WW1 but not perceived as specifically Irish’ and a ‘visit to London Irish groups for a talk? Small scale.’ Others communicated that they considered themselves ‘British’ and not ‘a patriot’ and were only ‘interested in the best for all’. Others suggested that the interest in 1916 was only from Irish nationals and not from British nationals. Generational knowledge was also affected as some said ‘Being 2nd generation I know very little. I feel sad about this really. I should know more this would give me a better understanding of what my family dealt with’. Others acknowledged commemorating Irish events in Britain was ‘Very good. It is now easier to celebrate Irish-ness in the wider community’ but that there was a ‘lack of information about events in schools’’ What was evident in the group was that Irish interest in history remains strong albeit from an older generation. This is partly due to seminars delivered at local Irish community forums such as Luton which allowed the respondents to learn facts about history. Another respondent stated that they had ‘mainly a positive experience of living in the UK but recognising a great degree of ignorance of Irish historical events even by the Irish living in the UK’. British voices in the audience expressed an interest in all sides of the events during Decade of Commemorations to be understood and that ‘politics are shared’ and political groups with common ideologies could collaborate to examine and discuss the period. A possible action for this could be a cross island conference on the decade for political parties from IRL and GB with an audience generated from the communities of Irish in Britain. Others stated that fair minded commemoration and celebration was fine in their opinion but only if it did not provoke and that the story needs a ‘balanced view’.

When asked ‘Do you think it is appropriate to celebrate 1916 at a local level in the UK? If yes what do you think can be delivered to commemorate 1916? Are there any particular events that you think would be suitable to commemorate 1916 in your local area?’ Respondents replied they wanted local Irish cultural centres to play a role and deliver events such as ‘information events, films, debates etc.’ literature, exhibitions and plays. Others felt the historical aspect should be celebrated in GB and that ‘we should celebrate Irish independence – not sure that Easter 1916 is the right date to choose’. Others felt that ‘stirring up tension, being easily mis-understood, might not be wise” but that “fair minded commemoration/celebration is fine” as long as it is “not in some-ones face to provoke”. Others felt that cultural celebrations around 1916 should be “Linked to St Patrick’s day” and areas such as Luton where there are high demographics of Irish should be a focal point for events. Others felt that it should not be a “celebration, commemorate with talks and films” whilst others stated ‘Easter Sunday is generally celebrated by older Irishmen’. Some voices expressed that ‘it should be commemorated in Ireland’ and ‘not at a local level in the UK’. Whilst others stated ‘The poets of that time their lives and how 1916 put a stop to the leaders of the rising writing more of their poetry and pamphlets for example P. Pearse’ should be examined. Locally they stated they would like to see Irish community hubs and forums deliver events and cultural evenings such as a short play, documentary or film connected to the decade. They also stated they would like more talks and dialogue events around the decade to take place in local Irish centres and consulates. Several voices stated that they have had ‘little experience’ of commemorating Irish historical events from the 20th century in Britain whilst others stated ‘We Irish in Britain like to keep connected to our history’ and that Irish historical commemorations numbered ‘very few unfortunately’ in Britain and that ‘different versions of history are taught in schools in Britain vs. Ireland and therefore giving the British people more information about our mutual history would be helpful’. Possible action – Joint board of history between the islands and north/south which could jointly develop school curriculum materials and programme of events to be delivered and organised at local level across UK.

7.4 (7) Connecting DOC stories from Ireland to the UK

This question ‘how best do you think stories relating to Ireland and the 1912 – 1923 period could be communicated and connected to nationals from the UK? What events could stimulate interest and why?’ evaluated how people in Britain wanted the stories of 1916 shared with them. Respondents replied that they would like to see ‘personal stories’ on film and TV in the form of documentaries, biopics, docu-dramas’ and archive footage and films from the DOC time period. The respondents expressed they would like broadcast collaborations such as a ‘BBC/ITV’ and the internet. and ‘films, dramas, literary festivals should be available’ ” and ‘Books, TV/Radio programmes, exhibitions in museums and public places’ and ‘a drama or TV or play that events of the time side by side from an English persons perspective and an Irish persons perspective’ and ‘non-sectarian DVD production and distribution’ and ‘TV is always a good way of showing people history’ They also expressed that they would like ‘music events’ and events that engage ‘school children in projects would work well too’. Some suggested that schools should have an Irish history week “they have it for many cultures” and it “could include literature, books, poems” of the period. Oral history projects were suggested as a project possibility as they are ‘Humanising both sides of the issue being historically accurate’ and ‘by families handing down stories’. Some asked that the Irish government ‘Take note of WW1 events currently taking place such as the poppies at the tower of London and numerous documentaries”. Others wanted access to archives and said “make records freely available and ‘perhaps trace stories back through family tree – produce a documentary’’. Whilst others want ‘Irish history being taught in schools’ and ‘review of history as is’ and ‘different events not on fence but history documentaries’ and ‘local engagement talks of local significance’ and ‘schools, colleges’ and ‘ talks with Q&A exhibitions’ and ‘by reading some of the vast collection of books on the subject’ and ‘lectures in universities. Talks in Irish clubs like the Irish forum in Luton etc.’ and ‘ They should be communicated orally and made accessible via the internet’ and ‘a short easy to read bullet point type document outlining the period of 1912 – 1923’.



7.4 (8) Examining the British side to the 1916 events

Within every conflict there are 2 sides. The narratives around 1916 contain a British story as the Island was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the time. Due to this the involvement of British citizens in the Rising was extensive. The researcher broached the question ‘Do you believe the British side of the story of this decade in Ireland should be examined in greater detail? Why if so, why not it not? What way do you see potential collaboration between Britain and Ireland?’ Most respondents replied that all sides should be presented to be unbiased and ‘need a balanced view’. Some answered that they were unsure there was interest in Britain apart from ‘intellectuals and historians’ around the events but that “motives and actions and reactions through the birth of the state’ should be examined. Others acknowledged ‘politics is shared internationally as people shared progressive grassroots parties/groups’ and that “The two countries are so closely linked, whether or not it is liked. So many Irish have come to England to prosper, when Ireland could not provide for them’ and that the history of the 2 is interlinked. Others felt looking back could be detrimental to current relations stating ‘I don’t feel that going backward now will help how far forward relations have come’ and that people should ‘move on’ and that ‘there is already very good collaboration on all levels’. Other respondents felt the education system should be doing more to educate British nationals about Irish history and stated ‘I believe a different version of history is taught in schools in Britain vs Ireland (ROI) and therefore giving the British people more information about our mutual history would be helpful’ and to ‘compare histories re-examine facts and stories for ‘parallels between Ireland and Britain’. Other voices were more divided and stated ‘No I don’t believe their side! All wars produce their own lies and propaganda. Once British administration is removed then we can be mutually friendly’ and ‘the retention of a land by occupying force is a less compelling story then the birth of independence but it needs to be heard in the interests of objectivity’ and ‘it should be as an indication of how British politicians played a very British divide and conquer role’. Others stated ‘yes they should be invited – they can present their forebears perspective on the events’. Possible actions that could be developed to communicate the story to nationals of the UK could be by producing a drama or TV programme that reruns events of the time side by side from an English and Irish person’s perspective. This could be styled upon ‘Roots’ which told the story of the slave and its impact on nations and was watched by millions particularly in US and in schools. Could also support academic institutions on both sides to examine the period jointly by twinning of universities and developing joint academic conferences.



7.4 (9) Legacy of Events

When respondents were asked ‘what do you believe should be the legacy of commemorating the 1916 period – should there be a legacy?’ Respondents replied ‘Greater knowledge and engagement with Irish history’ and ‘yes a historical permanent exhibition on the Easter Rising preferably at GPO’ and ‘surely the country ‘state’ is the legacy’ and ‘yes the beginning of Ireland as we know it’ and ‘Remembrance to all that died’ and ‘Enhanced understanding’ and ‘of course there should be a legacy after all this was a hugely effected era and it should be known and respected’ and ‘Greater understanding of the story of the country and the wonderful people that hail from Ireland’ and ‘by any standard we are a relatively young and successful nation’ and ‘more inclusivity include Irish soldiers from WW1’ and ‘Better understanding of the history of UK and Ireland’ and ‘we got a free state’ and ‘remember as it was’ and ‘yes commemoration’ and ‘the Irish free state/Republic of Ireland is the legacy, and all Irish political parties in the southern state’ and ‘yes but in what form I don’t know’ and ‘the legacy is that it was the start of a staggered and messy business. There is a mythical grace in that it was never matched by other big events up to the present day’ and ‘Maybe the 1st and 2nd generation Irish children would learn more of the history of Ireland – this has sadly been neglected in the education system in the UK’ and ‘Educating all peoples not least the Irish on the Irish in Britain to a real understanding of the 1916 period’. Others suggested physical events that could be delivered such as ‘dedicate a day with a time for a minutes silence’ and an ‘area to visit as a visual aid – statue/building’. Others were cynical in their sentiments and stated ‘I think they should be remembered with pride but they wouldn’t be too happy with the cowboys that have been running it since’.



7.4 (10) Engaging Unionists and British Nationals in 2016 Commemorations

The 2016 commemoration events will be viewed in some quarters as a nationalist commemoration. Though extensive peace building and reconciliation has taken place in the last decade and beyond whether Northern Irish and Irish unionists will engage in the events is yet to be publicly announced. To assess community temperature at ground level respondents were asked ‘Do you believe Unionists and British nationals should be invited to participate in the 2016 commemorations in what some may perceive to be a nationalist commemoration? Why, if so, why not if not?” Replies to this question were amongst the most contentious and included ‘They should be invited – they can present their forebears perspective on events’ and ‘all will see it as a nationalist commemoration but that does not mean they should not be invited they may wish to participate’ and ‘No they are not part of state’ and ‘most definitely if only to show how much things have moved forward, and that dialogue and communication is key’ and ‘yes we are all friends now’ and ‘yes to prove old wounds have healed and we can live in a tolerant society’ and ‘try- carefully!’ and ‘if they participate in a civilised manner then why not? Things change for the better’ and ‘yes it should be an inclusive event as both were affected in history’ and ‘yes we are trying to move forward and all should join in’ and ‘cooperation’ and “British have moved on – there is now more of a coming together than ever before’ and ‘In keeping with the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ and that spirit yes they should be invited even if the unionists refuse’. Respondents also stated that ‘they should but whether they come or not is another thing!’

Northern voices were present and argued that the 6 counties still remained an issue and they identified as being from Ireland, whilst other Northern voices stated they identified as being from Northern Ireland. Audience members said they would attend if a large parade took place with guest speakers such as the Taoiseach and Prime minister of UK.

7.4 (11) Accessible Records

Accessible records and media which can be disseminated and available to the public will be a key resource in the DOC period. Respondents were asked ‘Materials pertaining to the period will be made available through databases, websites and public records for example. How best would you like to access information on the events of this period? Books, films, documentaries, public records or other? Please outline’ A vast number of respondents stated ‘documentaries’ to be leveraged as the key communication tool. Others stated ‘Online, TV, film, debates/public events, concerts maybe’ and ‘Via the Luton Irish forum and forums throughout’ and ‘documentaries, mixed media (Text/Video, Unlimited length) books’ and ‘Sites similar to the 1901/1911 census are a good example’ and ‘a drama as a build up to the event” and ‘websites’ and ‘public records’ and ‘online’ and ‘internet’ and exhibitions. and ‘documentaries, but well-advertised in newspapers etc.’ and ‘via the internet in a proper online audio library’ and ‘by any means possibly particularly in our secondary schools and by regular meetings as already being held in Luton Irish Forum’. Whilst schools and colleges could run an Irish history week/month and teaching around such could be delivered to school children. It was also suggested literature and poetry could be explored from the period. Others felt mediums should be leveraged to assist with the reach of the events such as ‘education in history’, ‘seminars’, ‘exhibitions’, ‘TV/Social Media’ and ‘genealogy’ should be central and ‘the reasons and intentions of the leaders to have a free and independence Ireland’ should be discussed. On how to record the history of the decade audience members suggested families hand down stories and trace the history of the time through the families of present day. A possible deliverable action for this could be large oral history projects across the UK and Ireland in which to collect materials and research styled upon Stephen Spielberg’s database of Holocaust survivors. An Irish story could do something similar with 3 narratives, unionist, nationalist, and dissenter and give a balanced perspective and viewpoint on history. A database of relatives could be established during decade of commemorations period and a call out globally for submissions of stories via a portal and this could then act as an archive.

Others suggested photographic displays of the period, lectures, discussions and dialogue and a ‘short easy to read bullet point type document outlining the period of 1912 – 1923’ which could be distributed to homes. Finally respondents also stated ‘I’d like all to reflect and remember the effort – I’d like to hear words of and from non-zealots’ which sums up as to how government should approach this and be inclusive to all voices dissonant and unheard also.

7.5 Conclusion and summary

This chapter has set the broad context in which this research was based. The focus of the chapter was to evaluate community and ground level responses to a number of questions that were drafted with government commemoration documents as a background resource. The questions were also drafted with support from Failte Ireland as to key questions and motivators that they ask when they undertaking research with a target group. The questions discuss community feeling and ground level feeling towards commemorations and aspects connected to thus and overall find that ground level response to commemorative events is largely positive but there is some contention in terms of engaging British nationals and unionists in events.



Chapter 8

Stakeholder Cooperation between GB/ROI/NI – Drawing Narratives and Finding Commonalities to Deliver a Joint Work Programme

8.1 Introduction

This chapter provides the reader with an insight into perspectives on commemorations. Voices from across the civil service, diplomatic and political spheres put forward their thoughts on how cross border cooperation and international engagement can be enabled, potential tourism projects could be developed and how other initiatives built around aspects such as education could be leveraged.



8.2 Methodology

The methodology behind this chapter was to interview a number of politicians (NI/ROI/GB), representatives from political parties, diplomats, civil and public servants from tourism bodies and arts bodies and representatives from the unionist and nationalist community as part of the author’s research. The approach was to ask similar questions to the group to identify areas of common consensus, ideas for new approaches and areas that are contested or need debate. Within this, questions were asked around ways to develop stakeholder cooperation at both ground and government level. The final version of the document will be shared with all those interviewed to identify crossovers in thinking amongst the group and also evaluate potential ways to move forward and develop joint work plans.



8.3 Existing stakeholder cooperation between NI/ROI/GB

The main bodies which stakeholder cooperation on a north/south/east/west basis takes place have been developed out of the Good Friday Agreement (1998). These bodies include 6 north/south cross border implementation bodies that were set up around areas such as; Waterways, Language, Food, EU programmes for border and north and Trade/commerce. A further 6 areas of cooperation were identified in the GFA such as; Environment, Education, Agriculture, Health, Transport and Tourism but are supported by staff in each jurisdiction. A North/South Ministerial Council was also established, holds regular meetings and is supported by a joint secretariat in Armagh. A British – Irish council whose aim is to “promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands” is based in Edinburgh, Scotland and its membership is made up of the 8 jurisdictions in the islands of Ireland and Britain incl. offshore islands.

Stakeholder cooperation throughout the Decade of Commemorations will most likely cross Arts, Tourism, Community, Education and Heritage areas and there are extensive areas that could be developed in terms of cooperation. In terms of event development and festival devisal for DOC Yaghmour and Scott point out each stakeholder is “influenced by different objectives, complicating goal alignment and cohesion in festival planning and implementation” (Quinn, B 2013, P. 140). Due to the brevity of stakeholders involved on a north/south/east/west basis it could be challenging to reach consensus amongst a number of issues including event devisal and delivery that cross territories.

8.3 (1) Distance of time between DOC events and governments setting the ‘tone’

The approach by those interviewed was largely that ‘inclusivity’ is the key to the way their organisations will approach the decade. Respondents advised that the last major landmark of the 1916 Rising was in 1966 for the 50th anniversary. At the time government in power was Fianna Fail a nationalist, republican political party that was largely born out of the ashes of the 1922 partition of Ireland. In 1966 the tone for events was deemed largely ‘one sided’ and ‘opposition’ in the Dail was ‘not included’1 The programme delivered was entitled ‘Cuimhneachain’ (Gaelic for Commemoration/Remembrance). Since the 50th anniversary the Good Friday Agreement has been signed and living memory has been eroded as most of the citizens involved in the 50th anniversary have passed away. Sherwin. S (Fianna Fail, Mar 2014) highlighted “The 100th anniversaries calls on the need to be balanced and factual. All sides of the Irish community on the island of Ireland need guidance to embrace the delicate nature of the current peace process and realise the need to tailor any statement, event, commemoration, celebration, conference, media event, publication etc. to avoid any damage to or undermining of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement”.



________________________________________________________________________________ 1 Sherwin, Sean. Fianna Fail interviewed Apr 2014

The British and Irish governments are also working very closely and cooperating in the European Union bilaterally and both governments wish to commemorate the events of DOC together as friends. This entails recognising and not trying to change or set out a government approved version of the past and showing whatever position you were on for events of 100 years ago that was then, but today for mutual benefit the islands are working very closely together.2

In Northern Ireland the approach to the Decade of Commemorations has been much more controlled due to contention that may arise in society around issues that are still salient. DOC has been referred to directly in the ‘Together Building a United Community’ (OFMDFM NI, 2013) strategy which states ‘Decade of Commemorations presents an opportunity to celebrate our shared differences in a way which will position Northern Ireland as a powerful example in conflict resolution and transformation on the world stage. The legacy of the ensuing 10 years should be such that we attract even greater positive worldwide interest, increased visitors and further stimulate the economy. Within the context of an inclusive, tolerant and respectful community, we believe that exploring our past can be enormously helpful in building a better future. We know that we still live today with the history we learned within the school and home environment but often we have not had wider exposure to other interpretations or understandings”. Further to this there has been cross party support to a series of principles drafted to deal with the way anniversaries are marked (advocated by the CRC and HLF) which will to be seen in the context of an ‘inclusive and accepting society’3.

These are;

1)     Start from the historical facts; 2)      Recognise the implications and consequences of what happened; 3)      Understand that different perceptions and interpretations exist; and 4)      Show how events and activities can deepen understanding of the period.



  1. H.E Mr. Dominick Chilcott British Ambassador to Ireland interviewed Apr 2014 in person

  2. Mc Gowan, Stephen, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Northern Ireland interviewed Apr 2015 via email

Sensitivities exist to interpretations, triumphalism being leveraged on either side and applications of such in present day however as Durkan, M. stated “I think the effort has to go into trying to make sure that it’s a matter of historical reflection rather than political celebration. It’s about trying to remember the totality of history, the totality of the events in the context of their time and also reflecting on them in the context of now and the experience since”3 whilst a source in the unionist community felt that Ireland (ROI) being a “less militaristic” society in recent times has helped relations and peace in the north and “has helped to move people away from a bi-partisan view of our history.”4 The Northern Ireland Office has also approached the Decade of Commemorations with an inclusive mind-set; they are working with the Irish government (Department of Foreign Affairs), British Embassy in Ireland whilst also communicating back to Whitehall to a steering board and state “It’s very important for us that we avoid conflicting narratives and we firmly believe that a joint approach from the British and Irish governments will set a tone which is appropriate for local commemoration events” and want communities to make “the most of the opportunities that are presented by the centenaries for better understanding of history and commemorating in a way which is a contribution to a shared future” 5 Irish government officials concurred with the approach to engage communities by stating “The perspective is too broaden way out beyond military style commemoration or a commemoration that is focused on a military parade, to capture in a sense that The Rising was part of a cultural revolution against the backdrop of what was happening in Europe and globally” and “a strong cultural component” and “a strong international component” will be delivered in their programme that will engage “all the communities that were affected by it” 6 Respondents from Unionist parties related “education” and educational aspects as being key to how commemorations should be delivered rather than advocating “triumphalism” and stated “there is no difficulty in terms of history whatever you are commemorating to educate this generation about what happened in the past and to draw on that” 7

________________________________________________________________________________



3 Durkan, Mark *SDLP, Northern Ireland interviewed in person Apr 2014

  1. Unidentified Source in Unionist Community interviewed in person Apr 2015 (Contact available for further info if requested)

  2. Beggs, Kate, Northern Ireland Office interviewed in person Apr 2014

  3. O’Donnchu, Niall Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht interviewed in person Mar 2014

  4. Cairns, Timothy. DUP, Northern Ireland interviewed in person Apr 2014
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