Is 1916 being hijacked? The relatives of those who took part in the rebellion certainly think so. 

The centenary of the Easter Rising is rapidly approaching and the political wrangling over ‘ownership’ of the celebrations is getting increasingly intense. 

Commemorating 1916 has always been a political hot potato and something official Ireland has been uncomfortable with. 

However, with the rise of Sinn Fein in the polls and Fianna Fail eager to rubber stamp its credentials as the ‘Republican Party,’ every politician is eager to take ownership of the hundred-year anniversary. And in this stampede the relatives of the very ones who gave their lives for Irish freedom are being sidelined.

The aim of those involved in 1916 was to win freedom and independence for the people of Ireland. And it is therefore only apt that the centenary celebrations are led not only by the relatives of those who gave their lives but by Irish people throughout the world. 

So the fight is now on to win back ownership of 1916 for the people of Ireland from those eager to associate with the celebrations due to political motivations. 

At the forefront of this campaign is the 1916 Relatives Association, which represents family members who fought in the 1916 uprising and include the signatories of the Proclamation. The group’s aims and ambitions are for the Irish Government to establish a programme of activity and foster relations, collaboration and appropriate commemoration for the 100-year celebration. 

Similar to America’s Day of Independence, each and every member of our group live, breathe and hope that Ireland can enjoy an Independence Day that will allow us acknowledge the generation of families, poets playwrights and patriots who gave their lives for what we enjoy today, independence. It is the ideals of the men, women and children of 1916, that remain as powerful and alive today in this 21st century as a nation, as they did on Easter 1916. 

The Association recently met with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, in an attempt to clarify the Irish Government’s plans for the national commemoration of 1916. While the meeting was generally positive the feeling among the members of the Association is that there seems to be more emphasis on celebrating the anniversary of Word War I than 1916, and the people most connected with the historic event have been sidelined. 

The first event to be celebrated in the run up to the centenary is the Howth Gun Running saga, when the ‘Asgard’ delivered arms to the Irish Volunteers. Erskine and Molly Childers, with the aid of a small crew, famously made the voyage from Germany on the 51ft ketch with some 900 rifles. 

However, members of families involved were not invited to or indeed surveyed with regards to the celebrations. The 1916 Relatives Association is extremely worried that this oversight will sadly be part and parcel of all centenary celebrations. 

The organisers of these events may know the facts and the history, but they don’t know the people involved. The relatives are the only surviving direct link to the historic events that would eventually lead to Irish independence and they are currently being ignored. 

Now is the time for the Irish people around the globe to change this and join with the 1916 Relatives Association to win back ownership of the centenary celebrations. Because if the marking of 1916 is left to those in power it will simply be a means for political parties to hijack what is a celebration of the very spirit of Irish people. 

The powers that be have already shown they have no true interest in 1916. For those who doubt this just take a trip to the historic properties on Moore St that were at the heart of the rebellion and you will see structures that have been allowed to dilapidate and decay. 

So 2016 is the perfect time for Irish people to show the world that they are proud to celebrate this remarkable event that changed the course of history. They need to pry ownership of it from politicians who are only interested in opinion polls. 

Currently the organisation of the celebrations connected with 1916 are being led by civil servants who have no compassion for and no connection to these events. If this remains unchanged they will drain all the emotion and passion from the centenary. 

The 1916 Relatives Association is therefore asking Irish people to rise up once more and take back ownership of the event that led to our freedom. It is time to w-n back the Easter Rising and stand once again united. 

David Kilmartin is a spokesperson for the 1916 Relatives Association. For those interested in finding out more about The 1916 Relatives Association or donating to the cause please contact [email protected].