State examines sponsorship for 1916 events

Irish Independent Article, Shane Phelan, 03 November 2014

THE Government is examining a proposal to seek sponsors or financial donors to support events commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The proposal emerged from an expert group, chaired by Dr Maurice Manning, which has been advising the Government on the celebrations, the Irish Independent has learned.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the separate All Party Consultation Group on Commemorations, chaired by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, in Leinster House last Thursday.

Officials are examining if appropriate partners can be found for certain events around the commemoration, which takes place in less than 18 months’ time.

During last year’s EU Presidency, the Government did accept appropriate corporate sponsorship to help foot the bill for events.

Some €4m was allocated in the Budget to support a programme of events for 2016, but such has been the volume of proposals from around the country that further funding sources may be needed.

The disclosure comes as the finishing touches are being put to long-awaited plans for the centenary year.

Ms Humphreys hopes to have the plans published in the next fortnight, after which there will be a period of public consultation.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy, whose grandfather took part in the Rising, said she was “open minded” to the idea of private sponsorship of certain events, provided this was done in the correct manner.

The consultation group has heard submissions proposing events right around the country in the run-up to the Rising anniversary.

It is likely many of these will feature on the official Government programme – as Ms Humphreys has said she wants to make the commemorations a nationwide event.

However, there has been no indication yet whether a decision has been made on one of the key issues relating to the commemorations – that is the extent to which relatives of those who took part in the Rising will be involved, particularly in the anticipated State commemoration on Easter Monday.

Ms Murphy, who sits on the consultation group, said: “We have been given global statements that the relatives will be centre stage, but it has not been said how this will happen.

“That has been missing and it is a real source of frustration and hopefully we will see this clarified in a fortnight’s time.”

Another member of the consultation group, Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, said there could be up to 150,000 descendants looking to take part.

“That is going to be the biggest challenge,” he said.

Mr Daly said one possibility was for descendants to assemble at the outposts where their ancestors fought in 1916. They would then be led by units of the Defence Forces to converge on O’Connell Street, with a reception afterwards at Croke Park.

There has also been no clarity to date on whether members of the British royal family or government will be represented at the event, and what the security implications of such a decision might be.

Mr Daly said several members of the consultation group had raised concerns that the presence of foreign dignitaries “would overshadow the significance of the event”.

Projects at the GPO, where an interpretative centre is to be built, and at Kilmainham, where a visitors centre is planned, are set to be ready in time for 2016. However, it is far from clear whether a commemorative centre on Dublin’s Moore Street, where Rising leaders made their last stand, will be ready.

Relatives of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation are opposed to the demolition of several houses on the street to make way for a shopping centre and want more of the street conserved.

Irish Independent

Shane Phelan

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