Opening Statement by Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on the Ireland 2016 Schools’ Programme

I am very pleased to have the opportunity this evening to update the Seanad on the Ireland 2016 Schools’ Programme.

The Ireland 2016 Schools’ Programme was launched by the Minister for Education and Skills, Minister Jan O’Sullivan and I at CBS, Westland Row last week.

It was an ideal setting for the Schools Programme launch, as both Pádraig and Willie Pearse went to school in Westland Row.

It is well known that the Pearse brothers – and Pádraig in particular – valued education, so I hope they would approve of the diverse range of initiatives and projects that form part of the Education Programme.

The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme is an invitation to everyone on the island of Ireland and to the global Irish community, to look back on the events of 100 years ago which shaped this nation, to consider the amazing things we have achieved over the last century, and to look ahead to the next 100 years.

We want children and young people to be at the heart of this programme.

They are, after all, the guardians of the next 100 years.

Working with the Ireland 2016 Project Office in my Department, the Department of Education and Skills has developed a diverse programme of activities for children and young people, to help them reflect on the events of 1916 while also looking towards the future.

Earlier this month, the Taoiseach launched the Flags in Schools Initiative – where the Defence Forces will deliver our national flag and a copy of the Proclamation to every national school in Ireland.

It is very important that children and young people learn about the peaceful message behind our national flag.

Members of the Defences Forces will visit more than 3,300 primary schools; they will talk to the children about the flag and the contents of the Proclamation.

I saw how excited the children were in Mayo at that first event with the Taoiseach.

They were so thoroughly engaged with their history, and they listened to every word as the army officer explained the significance of the green, white and orange on our flag.

The Thomas F. Meagher Foundation is also going to deliver the flag to secondary schools around the country.

Through these flags initiatives we are bringing the commemoration programme right into classrooms, and I hope we will leave children with a positive memory of the events of 2016.

Another element of the Programme which I am particularly interested in is the ‘Proclamation for a New Generation’ project where students across the country will write a new proclamation for their own school – to reflect the values, hopes and aspirations of the 2016 generation.

This will start with an analysis of the ideals and principles contained in the 1916 Proclamation and then students will be encouraged to reflect on their own aspirations.

Who better to look forward to the future and to set out their vision for the next century than the children of 2016.

This project entwines the historical and the forward looking elements of the programme – the children will look back on what happened in 1916 and what informed the aspirations and ideals of the signatories, and then they will consider their own experience today, and what they would include in a Proclamation for the own generation.

Then we will look forward to ‘Proclamation Day’ which will be very special day held in all educational institutions on 15th March 2016.

The day will start off with the raising of the National Flag, followed by a reading of the Proclamation.

For schools around the country, it will be an opportunity to invite families and the wider community to come to the school, as they showcase the work of their students, such as the results of the Proclamation for a New Generation.

As part of the 1916 Ancestry Project, children and young people will explore what life was like back in 2016, what happened their families during the Rising, and will perhaps even discover if their family had any involvement in those tumultuous events.

The Ancestry Project will give students and their teachers an opportunity to explore the wide range of material which is being made available online as part of Ireland 2016.

For example, the parish records published by the National Library of Ireland provide a wealth of genealogical information.

These records feature the baptisms of some very well-known figures from 1916, such Padraig Pearse and Thomas McDonagh.

It is my hope that as the children start exploring this information, it will also spark the interest of their parents and other relatives.

A number of All-island Competitions focusing on the events of 1916, have been developed by the Department of Education and Skills, in partnership with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland.

This includes history, drama and arts competitions, which are open to students from both sides of the border.

A number of other competitions will also be run, including:

  • A special exhibition featuring work by students on the theme of Ireland 2016 which will be hosted by the National Gallery of Ireland in September 2016.
  • And students will be invited to write a short drama based around any aspect of the events of 1916, film the performance and submit the short video to RTÉ.

A public vote will be launched to select the best plays, with the winning schools invited to perform them on the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Spring 2016.

Our National Cultural Institutions, including the National Gallery and the National Museum, have been developing exciting programmes to engage directly with children.

We’ve also been working with other organisations to run programme and publications, which will complement the main elements of the Schools Programme.

For example, last Wednesday, the Irish Times published a fantastic supplement called Children & the Revolution, which was supported by my Department.

This supplement was delivered to every school in the country, and includes a wealth of information on the Rising.

We are also working with the Irish Independent on an exciting series of supplements, which I will launch in the coming weeks.

The Ireland 2016 Project Office has also been working with the Irish Times on Irish Times Debating Competition which I will launch in the GPO next week.

This high profile competition for third level students will focus on 1916, and will culminate in a final in February 2016.

As with all commemorations during the Decade of Centenaries, the Government is committed to an inclusive approach in marking the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations summed up this approach well when it stated that the aim of the commemorations should be “to broaden sympathies, without having to abandon loyalties.”

The Ireland 2016 Programme is intended to give people scope to think about the events of 1916 and its legacy in a way that is personal and meaningful to each individual.

There are many different perspectives and views as to how the events of the 1916 Easter Rising, and all those whose lives were affected by those events, should be appropriately remembered.

As well as this comprehensive schools programme, local communities are also developing plans at local level for a whole range of events across the country and I hope that children and young people will also get involved in their local communities and take part in the various events.

I would like to thank teachers and principals around the country – we all remember inspirational teachers from our own childhoods and their enthusiasm and interest in this programme will help the children to really understand the events of the past and unlock their potential for imagining the future.

I acknowledge also the role of our Education Centre network and teacher bodies and the great supports and the resources that they make available to teachers.

And I would, of course, like to thank my colleague Minister Jan O’Sullivan and the many officials within her Department who have been so important in developing the schools programme.

I would like to extend my appreciation to Dr. Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisory Committee and to the Committee for their assistance with the development of the programme.

The knowledge and experience of such a committee is invaluable to the Ireland 2016 Programme.

I am also very grateful for the commitment and input of the members of the Oireachtas All Party Consultation Group, some of whom are present here this evening.

I might add that my Department has also been working with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to support the engagement of children and young people outside of the formal education sector.

Eight regional consultations are taking place with children aged 8-12 and with young people aged 13-17 on the theme of ‘Imagining Our Future’.

The outcome of these consultations will be compiled in a report to be presented by children and young people to Ministers and decision-makers at a major young people’s event on 2nd April 2016.

There really is something for all interests in the programme and I look forward to seeing the outcomes throughout 2016.

Further details in relation to all of the events taking place under the Youth and Imagination strand of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme can be found on the website www.ireland2016.gov.ie

Thank you for the opportunity to outline the Ireland 2016 Schools’ Programme this evening.

Go raibh maith agaibh.



Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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