The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme was the official Irish State programme to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and to facilitate reflection, reconciliation, analysis and debate and an active imagining of our future.
It was driven by a genuine collaboration and co-operation across Government Departments, the Office of Public works (OPW), the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, the local authority network, other State agencies and public bodies.
The scale and depth of the programme was unprecedented and it engaged our citizens at home and abroad in an exceptional way, with tangible benefits experienced at community, national and international level.
The programme was grounded in the principles set out by the Expert Advisory Group to the Government on Commemorations that the commemorations should be measured and reflective and informed by a full acknowledgement of the complexity of historical events and their legacy and of the multiple identities and traditions which are part of the Irish historical experience.
The programme showed how separate government departments and agencies came together to deliver a shared vision, demonstrating genuine cross-Government co-operation on a national initiative. It engaged our citizens in an unprecedented way - with over 60 State ceremonial events and 2,300+ events taking place at home and abroad as well as a capital programme of major restoration and development projects.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
The objectives of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme were to:
- Collaborate widely with a range of stakeholders to deliver a rich and diverse programme of events and initiatives, complementary & additional to the formal State commemorations;
- To create the appropriate structures to invite all citizens, Diaspora & friends of Ireland to remember and reflect on the events of 1916 and to embrace the complexities and nuances of the past with maturity & with an understanding that there are many different perspectives;
- To ensure that the 1916 centenary commemorations were inclusive, respectful, apolitical and appropriate;
- To handle, with sensitivity and dignity, access to the State events by the public, 1916 relatives & other invitees;
- To engage with the different traditions on our island & seek to imagine the future in ways that strengthen peace & reconciliation and respect all traditions as envisaged in the ideals of the Proclamation;
- To ground the programme in our cultural heritage and use the creativity of our artistic community.
The scale and complexity of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme and the short timeframe for the delivery of over 60 complex, sensitive and high profile State ceremonial events presented particular challenges in terms of logistics, planning and resources. Constructive and timely engagement with all stakeholders was critical to ensure clarity around roles and responsibilities and that key project milestones were delivered.
Another significant challenge was to maximise interest in the centenary programme from all strands of society. A further challenge was the risk that the programme could impact adversely on reconciliation.
To secure buy-in and engagement from the general public, media, 1916 relatives, local authority network, schools and other stakeholders, an extensive public consultation and communications programme was rolled out with ongoing targeted and structured engagement taking place throughout 2015 and 2016 across the island and around the world.
The programme was developed and led by the 2016 Project Office in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with cross-Government co-ordination led by the Department of the Taoiseach, overseen by a Cabinet Committee. It was also supported by the Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations and an Oireachtas All-Party Group. The scale and depth of the programme was unprecedented.
It was built on 7 strands, grounded in the principle that the commemorations be measured and reflective and informed by a full acknowledgement of the complexity of historical events and their legacy.
The strands reflect 5 intersecting themes; remembering, reconciling, presenting, imagining and celebrating. Delivery was grounded in community engagement and consultation, the promotion of active citizenship, volunteering and pride in community and country. Digital and social media targeted those who may not have otherwise engaged.
The inclusive nature of the programme enabled citizens to really examine our history and has urged them to consider the future of their communities, schools, universities, business and voluntary organisations, arts and culture institutions, historical societies, representative groups – at home and in our Diaspora around the world – to inform, to stimulate debate and discussion about 2016, and to foster programme initiatives.
Over 80 public consultation meetings took place and arising from these, the local authorities developed their own individual programmes based on the National Programme, with the publication of 31 county plans. 2016 provided a focus for a widely shared desire to talk about our identity, hopes for the future and our project of creating a society that exists for all of our citizens in which all people believe themselves to be equally cherished.
One of the most significant lessons from the programme for all of us concerned with the delivery of services at national and local level is the extraordinary capacity of local communities to mobilise and achieve successful outcomes when the right structures and supports are put in place to combine the efforts and expertise of all of us. Separate government departments and agencies came together to act in in a coherent, unified manner to deliver a shared vision - their combined efforts achieved results which could never have been delivered without this sincere and honest collaboration.