Call for US contribution to 1916 to be acknowledged

A series of meetings have been held in New York to allay concerns among some Irish Americans regarding the Government’s 1916 centenary commemorations.

Call for US contribution to 1916 to be acknowledged

The meetings involved the Irish consulate and focused on issues like the desire of Irish Americans to ensure James Connolly’s role in the Rising is properly honoured, especially his work as a union organiser in the US.

New York lawyer and Irish-American leader Brian O’Dwyer said: “There had been some dissatisfaction but there have been meetings here with historians and community leaders and the like and the consul general has convened a couple of meetings on the planning for 2016 and these meetings were very positive.

“They wanted to make sure that when 2016 is observed that the American contributions to Irish independence are acknowledged.

“In particular there’s a lot of emphasis here on Connolly because of the fact that he had spent much of his life in New York before the Rising, so the union people were very involved in making sure that that role was acknowledged.

“I’m getting the sense that quietly there is some good work going on. Our consul general here, Barbara Jones, seems to have grasped the nettle very well.”

Mr O’Dwyer said that the issues had also been raised with Minister of State for the diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, a few months ago.

“At that time we were quite outspoken in terms of saying we wanted strong Irish participation here in the 2016 commemorations in terms of planning and financial help and he was very responsive and the Government has been quite responsive since then.”

At around the same time, the Irish Voice newspaper in New York was also urging Ireland to “think big” for the 1916 commemoration and to ensure that Irish-America and the diaspora generally are centrally involved.

“It is not for any party, from Sinn Féin to Fine Gael, to lay exclusive claim to the legacy of 1916.

“It belongs to all the Irish people no matter where they are,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“Millions of Irish persons, whether in Ireland or among the 70 million diaspora, were influenced in some way by Easter 1916.

“The commemoration of that event needs to think big to encompass it all.”

Mr O’Dwyer said that Irish-American community leaders are planning a series of historical and cultural centennial events in a number of US cities in the coming year.

In Pennsylvania, for example, newly-elected congressman Brendan Boyle has plans for a commemorative garden in the state.

Asked about recent comments by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan who warned about not allowing the centenary commemorations to become “a divisive issue” for communities in the North, Mr O’Dwyer said: “That is probably the wrong thing to be saying because peoples’ pride in their history should never be offensive to anybody else.”

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