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A Letter From Ireland – January 2015

BEST WISHES to you in 2015 and many happy returns. May it be the best year yet!
Now, as you settle down to enjoy your New Year celebrations, know that this 97th issue marks the beginning of the ninth year of this modest but heartfelt publication’s life. Given the difficult demands of the times, it’s a truly amazing accomplishment. Hats off to many for making this remarkable feat possible…especially a big hurrah for a job well done by Cleveland’s John O’Brien, Jr., IANOhio’s co-publisher, editor & columnist; to the advertisers, writers and, of course, our readership…well done to each of you too. May we all continue to enjoy the fruits of our labours with God’s blessings.
Speaking of congratulations, a large shout out is owed to Maureen Kennedy and Kent Covey, the founders and directors of Cincinnati’s Irish Heritage Centre. On 1 November, the IHC staged a special fifth anniversary Green-Tie Gala in its lovingly refurbished one-hundred-year-old-plus former elementary school. The music, singing, food, drink, Irish dancing and entertainment were all top-shelf…a tribute to the centre’s leadership, its membership and dedicated volunteers.
No question, 2014 ended with a bang for the IHC with more good things in the works for 2015. Several top-notch entertainment events will highlight the New Year while the Heritage Centre will host the next Acting Irish International Theatre Festival in mid-May. This annual event sees troupes from Ireland, Canada and the US taking centre stage for an entire week of terrific amateur theatre. Make your plans early…just click on www.irishcenterofcincinnati.com.
STOP PRESS! The Irish government has just released plans [13 November] for its 2016 Easter commemoration, but based on a cursory perusal, I’m disappointed. Try as I might to remain positive, a desperate feeling is gradually becoming reality, bit by bit. Hopefully, though, this official Ireland 2016 website will continue seeing some significant revisions, both in leadership and content, over the next coming months.
Originally, the Government’s flashy, Madison-Avenue approach, paying tribute to Ireland’s most extraordinary event of the twentieth century, completely missed the mark. Nowhere on its “Ireland 2016, Ireland Inspires” website was there a definitive reference to the seminal event it purports to honour. There’s no mention of the Rebellion’s raison d’être…no names, no photographs, no particulars, no insights into our country’s most historic happening. Saints preserve us; there wasn’t word one referencing England’s eight-hundred-year subjugation of Ireland…the very reason precipitating the Rising. Not a reference to justice, freedom or independence. No mention of Pearse, Connolly or Collins. Nothing of the Proclamation or its seven signatories; of their mock trials and hurried executions. It completely ignores the ensuing War for Independence or Ireland’s horrific Civil War.
Instead, the website simply stated its launching “a call to action for the people of Ireland and our Diaspora to remember 1916.” Furthermore, it asks the Irish “to reflect on the past 100 years and to re-imagine our future, building a new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence.” Finally, it introduces the reader to Ireland 2016’s five themes of “Remember, Reconcile, Imagine, Present and Celebrate.”
This glossy visual is more akin to the commencement of a lavish tourist promotion than it is a solemn tribute to some of Ireland’s most noble revolutionary heroes. Yes, all the Government’s glowing imagery, with some of its glaring omissions now corrected [see www.ireland.ie], continues to inflame and disappoint the sensibilities of many.
Angered over the Government’s fumbling and its seeming indifference toward the descendants of the 1916 Irish Volunteers, a group has emerged, calling itself the 1916 Relatives Association. They boycotted the launch and are threatening to organise a tribute of their own. To compound matters, the apparent thoughtlessness and even incompetence recently displayed by Heather Humphreys, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has made matters worse. At the launch in the GPO, Humphreys rambled on about her recent visit to a conference in New Orleans where she was “overwhelmed by the strength of the Irish community and their deep sense of pride in where they came from.” Glaringly, Humphreys failed to speak of the 1916 Rebellion, the reason for the kickoff event.
In addition, two other issues have surfaced. Disappointingly, there’s been no mention of establishing, in time for the 2016 Commemoration, the new educational/historical site in Moore Street, the Rebellion’s final headquarters at the end of Easter Week, 1916. Secondly, it seems that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his administration are still planning to press ahead with their intention of having a British royal presence at the 2016 tribute. In today’s The Telegraph newspaper [28 November], it reports that the Queen has agreed to “help Ireland mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, the rebellion which inspired Ireland’s war of independence.” Just imagine the nerve of the royal family…to think they need to come over and stand beside the Irish people as Ireland honours its Centenary of Freedom from English rule! If the fiasco over Ireland’s newly proposed water tax doesn’t do in the Government, then this fumbling attempt to pay tribute to Easter 1916 no doubt will.
Finally, it’s hard to know why the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government is so determined to self-destruct. As the An Sionnach Fionn [the white or fair-haired fox] website so aptly states, “I’m not quite sure if the political establishment in Ireland is embarrassed, ashamed or terrified by the 2016 centenary of the Irish Revolution but there is definitely something amiss in the way they are reacting to the approaching anniversary of the Easter Rising 1916. After four years of stonewalling from various representatives of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the emergence of widespread public disquiet has finally forced some action by the government. However, the actions witnessed so far seem just as bad, or possibly worse, than the months of prevarications that preceded them.”
It’s a damn bloody shame this event, which deserves such an unadulterated mark of respect, is emerging as a derisory and sullied sideshow.
Up ’16, no royals and Éire Abú, Cathal

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