The launch of Ireland 2016: Heather Humphrey, Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Aodhan O Riodan photographed next to the 1916 proclamation at the GPO.Kate Hickey.

The Irish government officially launched "Ireland 2016, Ireland Inspires," a “call to action for the people of Ireland and our Diaspora to remember 1916.” The celebratory event took place on Wednesday at the GPO on O’Connell Street, the headquarters of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, despite attempted disruptions by Irish Water protesters.

The decade-long commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising aims to “reflect on the past 100 years and to re-imagine our future, building a new legacy of hope, belief, possibility and confidence.” Ireland 2016’s five themes are “Remember, Reconcile, Imagine, Present and Celebrate.”

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys told the crowds that she had just attended the New Orleans International Irish Famine Commemoration and said she was “overwhelmed by the strength of the Irish community and their deep sense of pride in where they come from.”

She mentioned work already being carried out by Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, who recently visited the the US, and embassies around the world to make sure the diaspora were part of Ireland’s remembrance and celebrations.

Plans are already in motion to devise talks, community events, exhibitions, seminars and arts and cultural initiatives with a focus on Ireland’s diaspora. These include “Proclaiming Ireland: a 100 year Journey” hosted by the Kennedy Center, an academic and cultural program hosted by the Irish Embassy in London, community gatherings in association with the Irish Embassy in Ottawa, along with other embassy initiatives and traveling exhibitions.

Loud protests, reportedly by anti-Irish Water campaigners, and one woman who rushed the stage shouting “shame on you, what did you sacrifice” at Taoiseach (Prime Minster) Enda Kenny failed to halt the ceremony. Protesters continued to hit the windows and doors of the building and chanting could be heard outside the GPO throughout the event.

Deputy leader Joan Burton and Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin were also present along with dignitaries and some relatives of those who were involved in the 1916 Rising. Earlier on Wednesday some relatives announced that they would not attend the launch, claiming they were not informed in advance of what was to be in the program.

However, the launch event made clear that the relatives of those who fought in the Easter Rising would play a central role in the commemorations. Among the events would be a military parade on Easter Sunday 2016 (March 27th), which will be led by the relatives.

Kenny told the crowds that 2016 would be a focal point of the Decade of Centenaries program. He described it as a time for the public to “remember our shared history on these islands, reflect on our achievements and our failings and reimagine our future.

“Remembrance on its own is insufficient to honor the ideals and achievements of the men and women who proclaimed our Republic. We can best honor the past by reflecting deeply and seriously on the present, by exploring and celebrating our achievements, and by creatively reimagining how we should aspire to the ideal of the Republic as proclaimed in 1916.”

Deputy leader Burton said Ireland 2016 should lead to a “critical and open-minded exploration” of the formative years of the foundation of the state, including the social and cultural context of the Rising.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin spoke of Ireland’s complex history and referred to his own family, which included relatives who were with the British Army and the Easter Rising.

He said, “Our past is complex. It is a collection of many stories. Our commemoration will endeavor to voice these stories, in a space removed from that time,” he said.

“It will provide us with an opportunity to examine what occurred 100 years ago, but will also allow us to think about what we, as a nation, want to achieve over the next one hundred years – and the kind of society that we want for our children.”

The key events of the program, Ireland 2016 will be:

Saturday March 26 – an afternoon remembrance ceremony at Arbour Hill, followed by an evening special state reception for the relatives of all of those who fought in 1916.

Easter Sunday March 27 – A wreath laying ceremony at Kilmainham Gaol, midday military ceremony and parade, a minute's silence, and an evening state reception in Dublin Castle.

Monday March 28 – A morning interfaith service at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.

Sunday April 24 – A commemoration ceremony, hosted by the Minister for Defence, a requiem mass, and ceremonies at the graves of the 1916 leaders.

Outside of the official ceremonies Ireland 2016 will be marked with “permanent reminders” of the anniversary such as a new interpretive center at the GPO, investment in Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse, the Tenement Museum, Henrietta Street, the Richmond Barracks, Patrick Pearse's Cottage, the Military Service Pensions Archive, and the National Concert Hall.

The Ireland 2016 will also have a focus on the Irish language, education, and culture includes a series of concerts.

The Department of Arts will lead an extensive consultation program with local government and community groups to facilitate ground-up initiatives across the country, similar to those carried out in advance of The Gathering 2013. Individual communities will then organize events and their own commemorations.

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