Reconsidering Ireland’s centennial remembrances


More on the tone of centennial commemorations from Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter in the Times: “How do you prefer our long-dead Irish Fenians? Revered or reviled?”


The recent 100th anniversary of the Dublin funeral of Fenian O’Donovan Rossa is raising tough questions about how Ireland will recognize other events in the “Decade of Centenaries,” 1912-1922. Some events are more significant, or controversial, than others.

Marie Coleman, a lecturer in Modern Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast, says she was “perplexed and concerned by the nature and extent of the [Irish] State’s official commemoration” at Glasnevin cemetery, which was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins. She writes in The Irish Times:

It was unclear whether the focus of the event was Rossa himself or the significance of the funeral as signifying the rejuvenation of republicanism as a precursor to the Easter Rising. If the former, the State’s endorsement of an archaic form of irredentist Irish nationalism will sit uncomfortably with many in 21st-century Ireland and with unionist opinion in Northern Ireland. …

I would question if either Rossa or his celebrated obsequies were of sufficient historical significance to warrant a full commemorative ceremony from the State. It would appear that the construct of the “Decade of Centenaries” has created a need to find events to commemorate every year until 2023, even if such events are not of equal significance. …

[Like other anniversaries North and South] [c]ommemorating events that predominantly involved men with guns is highly problematic in a society still going through a fragile process of conflict transformation.

The Slugger O’Toole blog also delves into this issue under the headline, “Can we ever lay 1916 to rest?” The column raises questions about remembering anniversaries associated with the violence of The Troubles in the North.