Civil War commemoration ‘a huge test of national maturity’

The chair of the Advisory Board on Commemorations, Maurice Manning, has said the 2022 commemoration of the Civil War will be “a huge test of our national maturity and our capacity to face up to a difficult past”.

At the Parnell Summer School in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, he said: “The big test is coming up now, and that is when we come to look at the events after 1916, especially the way we handled the Civil War.

“The Civil War soured Irish life for over half a century. It divided families, it divided communities. Now, it’s only a memory — but it’s capable of exciting very bad feelings again if it isn’t handled properly.

“If you look at countries like Spain and France, 70 or 80 years after their bad experiences, it’s still almost impossible to talk about the Resistance or the Spanish Civil War.

“We have to face up to that. And the way I suggest we do it is to continue to be honest with ourselves about what happened: To be authentic, to find out all the facts, and try to explain all the different points of view. But ultimately let the people be the final judges.

“I think the tempo will change for the commemoration of the Civil War. 1916 was a central point and there was a huge build-up to it, in the sense of how it would be handled. I hope that for 2022 research and archives will be where most of the activity is.

“The generation of the Civil War wouldn’t talk about it. They didn’t want to talk about it.”

Asked how he thought it should be handled, he said: “In my view we need to open the archives, let the historians get the work, let the story be told. Then let the chips fall where they may, and then people will make up their own minds.”

He challenged what he called Sinn Féin’s attempt to take over centenary events.

“Sinn Féin spent enormous amounts of money on taking over the Ambassador Cinema in Dublin. So they were willing to spend a huge amount of money in an election year on taking over the commemoration.

“They would say that, outside of the consensus that has developed over the past year or so, they could claim the 1916 commemoration belonged to them.

“Sinn Féin can’t claim anything like that.”

“It was interesting this year that there were very many alternative events organised by Sinn Féin. For example, the party held its own memorial in Bagnelstown...

And again on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin had their own alternative parade.”

Asked if the Government has an obligation to hold commemorations, he said: “I think most people were happy this year’s was held. Otherwise there would have been a vacuum.

“I think this year’s events went well and it worked well, in part, because people were able to make space for different points of view and different attitudes. A big thing I learned from it was that the public were way ahead of the politicians at every stage of this.”

Manning challenges Sinn Féin over party’s efforts to lay claim to 1916 commemorations


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