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Speech by Minister Flanagan at the launch of the Ireland 2016 Global & Diaspora Programme


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Speech by Minister Flanagan at the launch of the Ireland 2016 Global & Diaspora Programme
Royal College of Surgeons, Monday, 29 June 2015


Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Together with Ministers Humphreys, Deenihan and Ó Riordáin, I am very pleased to welcome you all here this evening to launch the Ireland 2016 Global & Diaspora Programme.

One of the seven strands of the Ireland 2016 Programme - the Global & Diaspora Programme will extend the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising beyond our shores.

It allows us the opportunity to invite our citizens, Diaspora and Ireland’s many international friends to join with us in marking that key moment on Ireland’s path to independence and in celebrating the history and achievements of Ireland over the succeeding hundred years.

This evening, we are launching an exciting Programme of events around the world. Yet this is only the start of a programme that we will continue to expand and develop, together with our Diaspora and friends.

My Department, its Embassy network and Culture Ireland are working with a vast array of partners at home and abroad to put together these events. From Washington to Tokyo, and from Paris to Buenos Aires, local communities and authorities, universities, arts venues and, of course, the GAA are all working with us to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

These partnerships were already evident in what was the first event of the Global & Diaspora Programme (ahead of this launch even!), the commemorations over this past weekend in New York marking the death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. The Irish Consulate, the GAA, the New York County Cork association, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and many more groups, individuals and other friends of Ireland came together over the past number of days to mark this Irish-American piece of our history and its influence on the events which were to follow in 1916.

O’Donovan Rossa’s story is unique but elements of it resonate with so many families on this island. He was born in West Cork in 1831, lived through the hardship of the Famine, joined the IRB, was imprisoned for his activities in England, forced to emigrate on his release and did so to the United States. He returned briefly to Ireland in 1894 and 1904 and died in New York on this day one hundred years ago.

O’Donovan Rossa’s individual story of protest, hardship, of emigration and return, is reflective of a wider Diaspora who, for so many reasons, have left or had to leave Ireland but for whom Ireland remains home and the primary source of their identity.

Our horizons have always been broader than this island and the Easter Rising is emblematic of this global perspective.

James Connolly was born in Scotland to Irish emigrants. Thomas Clarke was a US citizen and five of the Proclamation’s seven signatories had spent time in the United States. The movement of people and ideas between Ireland, Britain Europe and the US had a profound influence on the Rising and those who led it.

The international connections ran in other directions too. Indian President V.V. Giri was a law student in University College Dublin in the lead up to the Rising and was friendly with many of the leaders. He witnessed the Rising and was suspected by the British authorities of being involved and ordered to leave. He returned home and, influenced by James Connolly, became India’s fourth President in 1969.

At the time, Ireland’s Rising was also international news. For 14 days, as news of events in Ireland made its way across the Atlantic, it was a front page story in the New York Times.

There are many examples of how, a century ago, the events in Ireland were shaped by ideas and connections beyond these shores. As we took our place amongst the nations of the world, the events of Easter 1916 inspired others to do so also.

And the Rising itself of course happened against a backdrop of war raging across Europe, with thousands from this island caught up in the carnage. Indeed, this week we will also mark 99 years since the beginning of the Battle of the Somme and on Wednesday I will represent the Government in Belfast at a Commemoration while Heather will attend events in France. Next year we will mark the Centenary of the Somme as part of our Decade of Centenaries, of which the Easter Rising commemoration is the centrepiece.

Over the century since the Easter Rising, we have become ever more connected to the global community as we will see when next year we commemorate the events of 1916 around the world.

There are far too many events to mention them all so I will just highlight a few.

Many of you will already be aware of the Ireland 100 arts festival happening in Washington with the Kennedy Center next May. For three weeks, this festival will celebrate the last century of Irish Arts and Culture. We’re also delighted that in the best tradition of festivals, there will also be a fringe festival in Washington, organised by Solas Nua.

In Boston mar tá an Ghaeilge mar chuid lárnach den chlár cuimhneacháin don bhliain 2016. The Irish language is central to the commemoration programme for 2016 and so the Irish Consulate General and Glór na nGael will hold a special conference bringing together Irish language groups from across the United States.

Rome’s Film Festival will have a 1916 theme; Brasilia will host an exhibition on Roger Casement; and in Buenos Aires, Irish-linked schools will invite young people to take part in essay and art competitions. Sydney, Dubai, London, New York, Paris, Warsaw are just some of the other locations with events already in the Programme.

The Ireland 2016 Global & Diaspora Programme is an opportunity to mark the Rising as a seminal moment on Ireland’s path to independence, to explore and examine our place in the world and to share our evolving story and our cultural heritage with those who are not already familiar with it.

It is also an invitation for all of us and the wider Irish family to look at our history in its wider international context, to reflect on our past 100 years and - in conversation with the Irish Diaspora and our international partners to begin to forge a noble vision of the future Ireland, our Global Island, for the next 100 years.

Thank you.