NI centenary celebrations ‘a far cry from Republic of Ireland extravaganza’

The efforts to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary are much more muted compared with celebrations in other states, such as the Republic of Ireland’s 1916 extravaganza.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 9:48 am
Michael D Higgins inspects the ranks of the Irish Army at the 1916 commemoration

That is the view from the head of the Ulster Scots Agency Ian Crozier, who said Dublin’s commemoration of the 1916 rebellion (which did not even mark the creation of the Irish state, but only one event leading up to it) was “a far cry” from how Northern Ireland is commemorating its own founding.

He acknowledged that the pandemic has hurt the ability to organise mass events, as did Sinn Fein’s decision to collapse the Assembly in 2017 – scuppering the ability of politicians to plan ahead for 2021.

But he pointed out that there are still another eight months of 2021 left in which to make up ground when it comes to commemorating the state’s existence.

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Images from BBC footage of the 2016 Easter Rising commemoration in Dublin showing the Irish president with massed ranks of the Irish Army, a vast parade through Dublin city centre, an artillery gun salute, and a fly-by from the Irish air force

It comes after a scattered handful of events took place across the country on Monday May 3, marking exactly 100 years since Northern Ireland entered into being as a legal entity.

Mr Crozier indicated that for him the date of May 3 is probably less significant than June 21, when the state opening of parliament took place.

He said his agency has earmarked about £100,000 of its budget to spend on commemorative activities (such as producing materials for schools and commissioning eight anniversary-themed Lambeg drums).

“We’re doing what we can do with the resources that we’ve got,” he told the News Letter.

Central Dublin marking the 1916 centenary

“ More could’ve been allocated to the centenary, put it that way.

“Whether it should have is up to other people. But more could’ve been done.

“If you’re talking about how these things are done in other places, even if you look at how things were done in Dublin in 2016, the resourcing and ceremonial [aspect] and everything.

“Notwithstanding the pandemic, what’s happening in Northern Ireland is a far cry from what happened in our near neighbour.”

Central Dublin marking the 1916 centenary

He said “a huge amount of resource” had been put towards the birthplace of 1916 rebel Padraic Pearse and refurbishing Dublin’s GPO in the Republic for example (where the 1916 Proclamation was read aloud)– “but not similar for the founding fathers of Northern Ireland”.

He said commemorations in Northern Ireland for 1921 are “fragmented” and that “there will be places where there’s nothing or very little happening”.

But he added; “There’s eight months left of 2021. We make of it what we make of it.

“The centenary isn’t over just because May 3 has passed.”

Central Dublin marking the 1916 centenary

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is planning an event called “One giant weekend” from September 3-5.

It will involve music, comedy and fireworks at the Valley Leisure Centre on Friday, a giant picnic on Saturday at Antrim Castle Gardens, and a craft fair at Mossley Mill on Sunday.

It and a handful of other councils are also offering babies born in 2021 a centenary-themed birth certificate.

Meanwhile, Ards and North Down has just opened to applications from community groups for £500 grants (see – www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/grantApplications)

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