Speech by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD
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Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Ministers and distinguished guests.
Is mór agam a bheith anseo anocht chun an Clár seo a sheoladh.
Many of you will have been present in the GPO last November, when we launched the draft programme of events for Ireland 2016.
We have done exactly what we said we would do.
Over the past five months, myself and the Ireland 2016 team have met lots of people with passion and great ideas on how to mark 2016.
Tonight I am delighted to be sharing these ideas and initiatives with you.
Inclusivity is at the heart of Ireland 2016, and I would like to issue an open invitation to the Irish people – across all communities and traditions – and indeed around the world, to get involved.
2016 is for everyone.
2016 is a special year, and it is a time for us all to take stock, to reflect on the kind of Ireland we have, and the kind of Ireland we want to bring about.
Through all of our consultations and work over the last five months, we have built the programme around seven strands.
1. State Ceremonial
The State Ceremonial strand is the first – and arguably the most important – of all the strands.
We’ve planned over 40 State events – starting with the O’Donovan Rossa commemoration this August.
And I am very proud that our Defence Forces will lead all State events, the centrepiece of which is the landmark Easter Sunday parade, involving our emergency services.
I believe it is very important to have the relatives involved in the commemorations and I am delighted that we are planning a special State reception that will be held for 1916 relatives on Easter Saturday.
State events will also be held outside Dublin – in places associated with the Rising, such as Ashbourne, Enniscorthy, Cork and Galway.
2. Historical Reflection
The second strand is Historical Reflection.
The Government on behalf of the Irish citizens is supporting seven major building and restoration projects which will provide a ‘permanent reminder’ to the events of 1916 and a lasting legacy.
We are going to have:
- A major new exhibition centre at the GPO;
- A new visitor centre at Kilmainham Courthouse and Gaol;
- Visitor facilities at the Military Archive at Cathal Brugha Barracks;
- A cultural centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh, Ros Muc;
- Refurbishment works at Richmond Barracks, a partnership project with Dublin City Council and the local community;
- A new Tenement Museum at Henrietta Street – which will be a stark reminder of what life was like in this city in 1916, and indeed how far we have come;
- The Kevin Barry Rooms in the National Concert Hall are being restored.
And I was delighted to announce earlier today that the Government has decided to acquire Nos. 14-17 Moore Street.
This will ensure the National Monument is safeguarded for the future, and will allow us to develop a new Commemorative Centre on the site.
I also want to ensure that the role women played in the Rising is fully recognised.
There is a great opportunity to reflect on the role of women over the last 100 years, starting with Countess Markievicz who was one of the first female ministers in any modern democracy.
I want to be very clear – we will remember and commemorate the 1916 signatories and all those who fought and lost their lives in the Rising in a very appropriate and respectful way.
These are the men and women who started the sequence of events which led to the foundation of the State.
Our Cultural Institutions have developed some fantastic plans for 2016:
- The biggest ever exhibition on 1916 will be held right here in the Riding School.
- The National Library is developing a major online resource and will hold a ‘Collection Day’ inviting people to bring pictures, letters or other artefacts that tell the stories of the seven signatories and others.
- The National Archives will digitise fascinating material, including secret files from the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful response of the third level sector.
Our universities and institutions will host a diverse range of conferences and seminars – that will no doubt facilitate great engagement and debate.
3. An Teanga Bheo: The Living Language
An Teanga Bheo – The Living Language has rightly been dedicated its own strand in the commemorative programme, which will be led by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Joe McHugh.
We have been working with Irish language groups to develop a rich Irish language programme.
It includes an exciting series of lectures, debates and events, arts and theatre; for example, An Taibhdhearc, which will put on special shows in 2016 in Galway.
And I hope that for many of us, 2016 will be an opportunity to re-engage and brush up on our language – agus mise freisin.
4. Youth and Imagination
Children and young people will be at the centre of Ireland 2016.
We want to capture the imagination and ideas of our young people.
School children will be challenged to take a fresh look at the Proclamation and will, through an action learning project, be asked to write a Proclamation for their schools that will reflect their hopes and dreams, for their generation.
We will also encourage children to trace their family trees back to 1916.
We will invite them to reconnect with our national flag so they understand its origins and meaning.
And we will deliver a flag and Proclamation to every school in the country.
All of this will culminate in Proclamation Day on the 15th of March next year, where every school in the country will raise the national flag, read the Proclamation and showcase their work to parents and community.
5. Cultural Expression
Artists played a vital role in the lead up to 1916.
So it is fitting that artists will play a central role in the commemoration of the Rising.
The arts have a way of exploring our history and imagining our future in a way that breaks boundaries and brings an alternative perspective.
The Arts Council recently opened a call for ambitious projects to mark the Rising in creative, innovative and inspiring ways.
A large scale National Choral event, involving choirs from all over the country, will also be held here in Collins Barracks.
Seven signature concerts will take place in the National Concert Hall during Easter Week.
And a major exhibition will be curated by the National Gallery.
We’re also working with our national broadcaster on a major public event, which will span a number of locations and will be televised on Easter Monday 2016.
It will tell the story of Ireland in a creative and exciting way, through music, song, drama and dance.
It’s still very much in development, but it is something I am very excited about.
6. Community Participation
Central to the success of 2016 will be community engagement.
I am delighted that Local Authorities have come on board to roll out our commemorative programme.
Every county is busy putting their plans together.
And I am very excited about the great support we are getting from other organisations such as the Heritage Council, the GAA, and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
7. Global and Diaspora
Ireland is not just an island of over 6 million people – its a global tribe of 70 million people and through Ireland 2016 we will connect with our global Irish family through our embassy network.
My own Department’s Culture Ireland is also working on an ambitious programme which will showcase the best of Irish talent abroad.
Together, the programmes will deliver a range of 2016 inspired events around the world, including cultural festivals in London and Washington.
The Government has decided that, rather than inviting heads of state and government to the 1916 commemorative events, other countries will be represented by their ambassadors and diplomatic representatives.
My primary objective is to ensure that the 1916 commemorations are inclusive, appropriate and respectful.
We have developed a rich programme of events throughout 2016, both large and small, inspired by communities and individuals at home and abroad, involving all who would like to contribute.
Over the past 100 years, we have grown as a nation that values and embraces our differences as a positive symbol of diversity, rather than a negative source of division.
Together, as a nation we will respectfully and inclusively remember that pivotal event in our history, which set in motion a chain of events that led to our independence.
It is only through having real engagement that we will leave a meaningful and lasting legacy.
By working together we can make 2016 a truly memorable year.
An Ireland that has commemorated its founding fathers.
An Ireland that has celebrated its achievements.
An Ireland that is proud of its identity.
And an Ireland that is going forward into the next 100 years with confidence and pride.
Go raibh maith agaibh.