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New report recommends joint British-Irish approach to World War One commemorations

Added 23-Oct-2012

A new report on the series of centenary anniversaries for very significant and historic events in Irish and British history has been approved at the 45th plenary of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly that is currently taking place in Glasgow.

The report was authored by Frank Feighan TD, Chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Sovereign Affairs, who oversaw a year-long consultation with a range of academics, government officials, national and local politicians, and community organisations and representatives in different parts of Britain and Ireland.

One of the key recommendations contained in the report is to establish a cross-border cross-border educational initiative to arrange, on a single day on an annual basis, exchanges and the teaching of the history of a particular anniversary.

Deputy Feighan said that he particularly welcomed the manner in which the recent commemorations of the signing of the Ulster Covenant passed off without major incident. He suggested that authorities and others involved in commemorative activities could learn from the manner in which this sensitive event was managed.

Other key recommendations included in the report are:

• That the British and Irish governments should establish a fund to support joint commemorations over the next decade;
• That an annual commemorations forum should be established to bring together a range of parties involved in commemorative activity;
• That the British and Irish Governments develop a joint approach, through a working group, on the British-Irish dimension on World War One commemorations.

Speaking after the Assembly approved the report, Deputy Feighan commented, "2012 is the first year in a decade which sees a number of very significant anniversaries in Irish and British history. These include the centenaries of the introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill in Westminster, the Home Rule Crisis and the signing of the Ulster Covenant, the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Dublin Lockout, the establishment of the Irish Volunteers (which is considered the birth of the Irish Defence forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann), the outbreak of the First World War, the Easter Rising of 1916, the War of Independence, the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the partition of Ireland.

"These momentous events changed the course of Irish history and relations between the peoples of our islands for the rest of the century.

"Commemoration of the past presents dangers. Risks exist that certain groups will attempt to exploit the anniversaries in a way which further divides us, undermining the progress achieved in recent years. But it presents opportunities as well.

"If history makes us who we are, surely a sensitive and inclusive examination of our shared past might serve to deepen mutual understanding between different people and communities, and to foster the ongoing process of reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and between our islands."

The Co-Chair of the Assembly, Joe McHugh TD, commended Deputy Feighan on his work and said that he fully supported the recommendations contained in the report.

Deputy McHugh commented, "This report on a very sensitive range of subjects merits serious consideration by the British and Irish Governments. I particularly welcome the proposal to develop a joint approach to the British-Irish dimension to World War One and I will raise this with my colleagues in Dail Eireann and with An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, when we discuss the outcomes of this 45th plenary."


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