Three years of consultative meetings involving senators, TDs, civil servants and historical experts have surrounded the commemorations, which will take place throughout all of 2016.
Plans to involve Concannon, who is Tourism Ireland’s director of marketing and development, came after members of the Cabinet expressed dissatisfaction with progress so far, the Independent reported. He was nominated last month after making a presentation to the Cabinet members.
There has also been criticism from relatives of those involved in the 1916 Easter Rising, who don’t believe they have been adequately consulted throughout the process. The Government is hoping that Concannon, who was centrally involved in The Gathering 2013 Irish tourism campaign, will play a “unifying role” in the program using his marketing expertise.
Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who plans to become more involved in the project himself, has also sent in his secretary general Martin Fraser to work with Concannon. Kenny will attend the launch of the program’s outline of events next Wednesday.
“Fraser was already parachuted in to sort out financial problems at the Department of Health, and the development is being perceived as a further blow to the credibility of embattled Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, coming quickly on the heels of the John McNulty controversy,” the Independent reported.
Along with coordinating a series of commemorative events to span 2016, Concannon has been tasked with fostering a national stocktaking exercise that will aim to promote the concept of “imagining Ireland’s future” in addition to marking historical events.
Many parts of the program will be geared toward the Irish diaspora – Tourism Ireland announced in an all-party consultation that “it has decided to focus predominantly on the diaspora, as the Rising is considered a much harder sell to other categories of tourist.”
“There will of course be somber and respectful occasions to mark key events. But the program will also involve people of all ages and generations gaining an understanding of what history has made them, and deciding who we want to be into the future,” a close source told the Independent.
Along with helping to lead The Gathering campaign, Concannon was previously consulted by the government about planning for the visits of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth. He has been a director of Tourism Ireland since 2009, is a chairman of Gaisce (the president’s award program), and a chairman of social care group COPE Galway.
Concannon has been given the title Director of Ireland 2016, and will be on a temporary detachment from Tourism Ireland until the centenary commemorations draw to a close.